are you a PLOTter or a PANTSer?
I’m over the moon the first draft of Book 3 (title TBD) of my Sweet T Tales is finished. While my beta readers and critique group are looking it over and before re-writes kick in, I want to curl up in a ball and turn off my mind. But I'm taking time to reflect, so I can notch up my writing process.
My biggest ah-ha was understanding my preference for a PLOT-ting or PANTS-ing approach to writing.
Read on to learn more about these two styles, and then take a 10-second survey to see if we have more PLOT-ters or PANTS-ers in this community.
My revelation about my writing preference came from an unexpected source – an author event sponsored by my local Indie Bookstore, Quail Ridge Books. I don’t personally know former-Raleigh based author Mary Kay Andrews, but I feel as if I do.
I first saw Mary Kay at our local library’s author talks decades earlier, before she hit the New York Times best-seller list. Plus, her kids attended the same high school as my neighbor’s, so it’s a six-degrees-of-separation kind of acquaintance.
I adore Mary Kay’s sassy, smart, independent Southern heroines.
Her wit that shines on the page crackles as she talks to the 300 or so readers gathered to hear her.
"I worked as hard as I could. I wrote as hard as I could. And I finished the damn book," she tells us of her 24th novel, The Weekenders.
Boy, I can relate after just finishing my first draft manuscript.
I worked as hard as I could. I wrote as hard as I could.
Then she shares her writing habits. And this is where my ears laser-tune as she describes two approaches to tackle writing: PLOT-ting and PANTS-ings.
Plotters surround themselves with sticky notes and whiteboards. They write out story points with detailed outlines and know exactly where their book is headed by scripting scenes and dialogues before starting to write.
On the other hand, Pants-ers write by the seat of their, um, pants, with no focused sense of direction. Mary Kay explains her Pant-sers style this way:
I know where I want to go overall, but it’s like driving in the dark with low beams and seeing an occasional armadillo.
It’s not that Mary Kay doesn’t think about what could happen to her characters. It’s more like letting characters take root in her imagination and letting them speak to her as the story emerges.
I’m getting the concept now!
It’s the writerly equivalent of being identified as a Judger (J) or Perceiver (P) as identified in the Myers Brigs Type Inventory: Js seek closure, direction and action. Ps always want more information before making a decision and are open-ended in coming to conclusions.
Hmm. When I write, I’m a bit of a Plotter because I am self-disciplined and stick to a schedule. However, when I try writing details and fleshing chapters before I start my tale, I get headaches.
Creating an outline? Double–headache. I used to feel guilty for not coming up with an outline. Like I was failing an author test.
Keeping it 100, I have been known to jot a few ideas on stickies. But no whiteboard for me.
I used to feel guilty about not doing more thinking ahead of time. Like I was failing an author test. No more. Now, I give my self permission to approach writing as a proud Pants-er.
Like Mary Kay, I start with an idea that stirs me. Even if I suspect the ending, I often have no idea how I’ll get there. Maybe I’ll pull together a Mind Map of possible plot points, but not in a particular order. I might jot a brief character description or bio. Then I turn my characters lose to see where they take me.
However, when it comes to book launch and marketing, watch out!
I revert to strong plotting. My J need for closure majorly kicks in with carefully researched goals, strategies and implementation tactics. Spreadsheets, checklists and calendars take over my office. I am like a field marshall organizing troops for a dress parade at the White House.
btw... Since I bounce between writerly approaches, does that make me a Plotty-Pants <winking here>?
Which style is best?
All of the above!
Each starts with an idea and ends with a finished tale. How you get there is a matter of personal preference. And I'm relieved to realize it's okay to be either.
How do YOU get there as you write or accomplish life tasks? Do you PLOT in advance or fly by the seat of your PANTS?
SURVEY: Join me in a fun 10-second survey below to see the make up of our community.
Were you surprised by the results? Please weigh in at the comment section.
Like what you see? Join my blog-reading fans.
Click below to deliver this blog to your RSS feed or inbox.
Would love to have you join my tribe of readers.
New members receive a FREE downloadable tale I penned especially for the young at heart:
Driving Down to Dillon:
A Very-Short Tale of Love and New Beginnings
This was such a fun read! I never thought about the differ nice in approaches like this before, plot-er or pants-er. I'm definitely a pants-er! When an idea hits me it's usually out of no where, and I just go with it. Trying to sit down and plan it out just leaves me feeling frustrated. I learned that with a Lorenzo story j was trying to write. I kept trying to plan it out, never worked. Once I stopped and left it alone, the ideas just came in. Great blog!
7/18/2016 09:31:47 am
Carmela, it helps to know your approach to writing and capitalize on that strength. Love how taking a break and Pants-ing helped you with your Lorenzo story..
7/18/2016 11:51:00 am
Hi Cat! This was interesting and a lot of fun! I am usually a "PLOT-ter," but here lately with my next story, I find myself being a "PANTS-er". I have a feeling that what I started out with, is going to take a whole new turn into something new. New ideas keep coming in and sticking and I can't get rid of them. This post gave me the assurance that it's okay to not to have all the answers at the beginning! Thanks again for sharing this! Happy Writing! :)
7/18/2016 12:24:19 pm
Rosie, you raise an excellent point. When first leaning or starting something new, I am more of a PLOT-ter, too. Happy PANTS-ing with your new story!
Great post. I can honestly say I am a mixture of both. It really depends on what I'm writing. There are times when I "see" the ending of the book and I structure everything around that. Other times, I see both the ending and beginning, which means I just have to fill in the middle. And of course, finally, there are times when I am much more structured and will do a full outline. It all depends on my mood. I think as writers, we all have to implement the tools that best suit the project in the moment.
7/22/2016 07:07:06 pm
Kristen, it's wonderful to have that kind of flexibility as a writer. I was surprised by the survey results, though unscientific, showing many authors favored a combined approach like yours.
8/4/2016 07:18:12 am
I'm both at different times in my writing process.
8/4/2016 09:57:46 am
Carol, a good strategy as you tackle different writing strategies. Thanks for weighing in.
8/8/2016 01:32:48 pm
I completely relate to the non-planning guilt. I'm a huge planner in life and have always felt that flying by the seat of pants is lazy. But the planner in me gets stuck and doesn't know what will happen while the flying pants side lets the characters decide what's next. Thank you for permission to put down the graphs and charts!
8/9/2016 10:34:44 am
Erica, I find strengths can also turn into weaknesses. When I get frozen in planning, my PANTS-er side comes to the rescue. Put down those charts and graphs any time -:D. No guilt!
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
Blogging about books, writing, family life, travel and more good stuff.