RT Convention Update: “Pants-ing” vs. Plotting…The Debate

Continuing my blogs on my experience at the Romantic Times Book Lover's Convention 2009 (in Orlando, FL), it was my greatest pleasure to speak with so many writers about the craft and the process in which people craft their own stories. I LOVE to hear all the ways that people come up with their story ideas and what brings them to that last page where they type our favorite words….THE END.

In discussing this very subject, I enjoy how much people LOVE to talk about their methods. I know I love to talk about it! Something I find very interesting that came up a lot is the debate of “Pants-ing” a story (writing a story by the “seat of your pants”) versus “Plotting” a story. If you're a historical novelist, you might want to call in “Pantalooning”, but I digress.

My “Pants-ing” friends insist, “I cannot write a story by plotting it out. It just doesn't happen that way for me. I've tried and I just can't do it!”

Being a “Plotter”, this “Pants-ing” thing had my panties in a bundle (yes, I will continue to exploit this pants/panty/pantaloon situation, so get used to it), so I asked a couple of my friends to explain. They basically said the same thing and here's a snippet of what our conversations sounded like (they're the Pantser and I'm the Plotter):

Plotter: Will you please walk me through “Pants-ing” a story.

Pantser: I will get an idea from a scene/character/book title/etc. (something that plants that initial seed of the story-yet-to-be) and then I'm sitting down and typing my way through the story. The next thing you know it, I'm typing “THE END”.

Plotter: Do you know your characters right from the start?

Pantser: Oh, no! They reveal themselves to me as the story moves along. They talk to me. Sometimes I have to stop writing to have a conversation with them and find out what input they have for the story that I might not have thought of, things like that. Then I go back to writing the story.

DISCLAIMER: Most…if not ALL…writers do this with their characters – talk with them on some level or hear their voices. This is the only profession where hearing voices is a GOOD thing…so if you hear voices, you might want to consider a career change! 😉

Now back to our regularly scheduled program…

Plotter: So, when you're done with your story…is that it? Do you package it off and send it to the editor/agent/publisher? (heheh…she said PACKAGE!)  😉

Pantser: Oh, of course not! I have to re-read it and make my edits.

Plotter: And what edits would that be? Checking if your story is making sense? If the story is something that is believable? If you have other sub-stories that need to be added? Things like that?

Pantser: Absolutely! I need to make sure that I have a tight story and add what I need, take away what I don't, have my critique partner give her input, give it to my beta readers, etc., …and make it the best book it can be BEFORE I send it out to my editor/agent/publisher – as we all must.

That's when I realized that as different as it may FEEL in writing our stories, diflucan online canadian pharmacy Pantsers and Plotters are actually doing the same thing…to a certain extent. What Pantsers do directly onto the paper, Plotters do in their head.

For example (here's where I get to talk about my method…hehehe): I come up with an idea, I mull it over, I play with it, writing down a scene or two so I don't lose those ideas…and when I feel I have enough to start formulating a story, I sit down and start flushing it out. Pantsers DO plot…whether its BEFORE they actually start writing the book or AFTER, they still have to check all the nuances of the story.

If you've been writing long enough and are familiar enough with the genre in which you're writing, and the type of story you're crafting, the plot is really second nature. Almost all – not ALL, but almost all – of the Pantsers I spoke with have told me they started plotting at first, but it didn't work for them and they just Pants it now. I'm going to venture an opinion that after writing a few tales, they have the hang of it and now it's just easier for them to let their creativity flow and get it all down at once. ALSO, Pantsers seem to have in common a “living in the moment” kind of mentality to their stories. They LOVE being there right in the middle of the story exploring their new world and characters AS it's forming in their brain.

I, being a Plotter, am a bit of a control freak. I don't like that flaying-about-at-the-mercy-of-my-story feeling. To me, that feels more like my characters and story grabbing me by the panties and giving me a weggie while they yank me around and the story unfolds. I'm all beat up and rather sore at the end of the tale/tail. LOL (Yes, I thoroughly amuse myself)

I want to be in control and put all my ideas in neat little piles and files and notes. Then I organize them in the proper order. And then I flush out the story from there. I call it my 50,000 foot method – like flying in a plane, you see the big picture from above, as you go lower, you see more details. The more you move in, the more details you see, until you have a flushed out story. But that's me…the control freak…I've found a lot of Plotters of like mind. We want control…not the graphic display I created with weggies and soreness and…well, you get the idea.

Is either one good or bad? Not for the Pantser or the Plotter…they like the way they develop a story…as they should. One isn't wrong or right. They're just two different ways of telling a tale.

This article is to show that we really don't create stories that differently, we just do it in our own way…and I love that variety…and the spice of life! What about you? Are you a Pantser or a Plotter? How do you feel about either of those POVs? OR do you have a different perspective to offer for us to explore??

That's my two pence…

Arial 😉

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