Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Why Flying By the Seat of My Pants Got Me Nowhere Back to the Plotting Board




Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.


This Week's Topic:

Are you a plotter or a pantser?






I'm a little of both. For all my projects, I begin with a rough outline, plan to do more plotting, but my impatient side usually kicks in before that happens, and off I go, flying by the seat of my pants. Well, not completely. I have major plot points in mind, and I tend to outline a few chapters at a time before I actually write them, but I've always just liked to see where the story takes me. And my characters. And that method of writing has usually worked for me.

Until now.

Many of my followers know I've been struggling with the latest WIP (so if the post sounds familiar, um... it is). It's the story whose plot gave birth to ten different subplots, and they took off in a katrillion directions. And then some of those subplots got together and gave birth to more subplots. And more subplots. And...yeah, there was a ginormous circus in my head. And it wasn't always a fun place to be. Too many clowns. Too many eccentricities. Too much going on.

My saviour's been Save the Cat - Blake Snyder's Screenwriting Bible - aka Big Book of Awesome Sauce. It helped me see the effectiveness of plotting BEFORE taking the writing plunge. And I'm doing better. I'm almost to the midpoint of the new version of my WIP (I wrote two-thirds of the old one and scrapped it), and I have fairly detailed scenes for where I want the story to go from there. There are still things I want to fix on the front end, but I've turned my inner editor on mute (er...somedays), but well, that's another post entirely.

And I've learned - I still like to pants it, but I'm very much into the plotting thing too.

PS - I think I win the award for Blogger's longest post title. Ha.

How about YOU? Plotter? Or Pantser?

21 comments:

  1. I just did a post about this subject and got quite a debate going in the comments. I think the two approaches have more in common that people like to think. And once you have a first draft (by whichever method) you basically have a ling, detailed outline to work from, so you need to have th eability to deal with that.

    mood
    Moody Writing
    @mooderino

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  2. Ummm...Ms. Math Teacher?
    *scratches head*

    What's a "katrillion?" The dern new math has this pseudonym so confused.

    But to answer your question. Plotter, all the way. Too much, sometimes. I spend more time outlining than actually writing. Just another excuse to procrastinate, I guess.

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  3. Oh my, yes, Save the Cat is a wonderful tool! That's really helped me a lot with my WIP too.

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  4. Oh! I will have to read SAVE THE CAT. I've heard so many good thingsa about it as a screenwriting tool. Glad to know its good help for plotting, too!

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  5. I'll have to check out Save the Cat. It sounds like something I could use!

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  6. I'm a pantser who knows where I'm going. I know I have to get over those three hills and make it to the tavern at the end of the novel, but how my characters do it is anyone's guess. I love to be surprised when I work. :)

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  7. I've stopped trying to write without some sort of plan. Even if each chapter is one sentence that tells me what's gonna happen, it saves me from going off on sidetrips that have to be edited out later.

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  8. I've heard so many good things about SAVE THE CAT. I'll have to check it out.

    I am mostly a pantser, but I won't set out on a draft until I have the beginning, ending, and climax firmly in mind. That way I have a sense of direction and don't just wander aimlessly with my writing.

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  9. I need to pick up SAVE THE CAT now! I'm mostly a plotter, but I'm trying to pants a little more. Plotting keeps you going, but sometimes it makes things a little too rigid (IMO!).

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  10. I'm the way you used to be. I write the first drafts with rough outlining, but the second drafts always have detailed outlining. My subplots don't have as high of a reproduction rate like yours. ;)

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  11. Wow, sounds like you have an awesome subplotfest going on! That could give rise to lots of material for a series.

    I thought mine would end up turning into that, but aside from possible hanging threads I'll rediscover as I go back and read from the beginning, it's pretty much focused on the MC and all that happens on her journey. Twisty and turny, but not as convoluted as I'd envisioned it could be.

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  12. Yay for plansters!

    I usually have the opposite problem when I don't plan things out first. I usually end up with a very bare bones first draft that need a lot of filling-out plot-wise. That's probably because I usually think of endings first and always have that in the back of my mind when I'm writing the rest, so my brain just wants to hurry up an get there. That's why I outline after my first draft, so I can fill things in.

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  13. I read 'Save the Cat.' Most of it, anyway. The thing that stuck with me the most was the 'Pope in the pool' device. :)

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  14. I love Save The Cat! It has so many great tips!

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  15. Oh, how I love Save the Cat. One of my amazing CPs turned me on to it and I refuse to start writing ANYTHING without filling out a beat sheet first. Also, when I watch movies, I find myself mentally plugging scenes into beats. :)

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  16. I'm another one who digs the beat sheet in Save the Cat. I've filled out some of the major plot points for potential ideas just to see whether the conflict and character arc could theoretically carry a novel-length story and that's when I haven't even figured out much about the character. I've also been using his beat sheet to study the structures of films since I'm useless at doing the same for a book. Maybe something I need to work on since, hello, writer.
    - Sophia.

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  17. yay plantsers! :D
    great post. i think i'm going to pick up this "Save the Cat." i keep hearing great things about it, along with "On Writing."

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  18. I'm typically a pantser but I think I might turn into more a plotter here soon. It really could save me some time. I like the adventure of flying by the seat of my pants though. My character's surprise me and the story takes turns I never would've imagines. That said, though, I can still take those turns if I plot and outlining might actually save me from taking too many turns and incorporating too many subplots. We'll see what I do with my next novel. Right now I'm in major revisions.

    And I love that book. I'm reading Story Engineering right now and so far I like it. If it's as good as some writing books, I'll blog about it to tell everyone :)

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  19. I'm a little of both, too, but definitely plotting is one thing I take care of in advance. Especially if the plot is more complicated. But how much I plot out in advance varies from book to book. I've heard great things about Save the Cat.

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  20. I agree with you. Pantsing is nice for little fun twists in a chapter, but I NEED a direction and some structure before I get started. Learned that the hard way :P

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  21. There are definitely benefits to plotting and pantsing...the trick is finding what works best for you and each book :)

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