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?
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