Monday, February 4, 2008

Confessions of a closet pantser

What's Jack up to? Today he's still coming down from the NY GIANTS Superbowl win! He enjoyed a wild party last night with The DH, DD and DS. Dear Jack you're looking a bit hung over today. Rest up.

During my excavation weekend I read Stephen King's On Writing. I was surprised to read Mr. King confess that he plots "as infrequently as possible." I was shocked! Stephen King, bestselling author of some of the most intricate stories ever, not a plotter, but a pantser. Suddenly my own wandering way of writing seemed a lot more acceptable. Heck, I'm in pretty good company.

Usually when I have a story I know point A and have glimpses of point Z, but only blind faith that there will be something exciting happening on all the points in between. Now I do plot in the lightest of ways, writing lists of things I would like to see happen in whatever book I'm working on. When I want to go more in depth I do Post-it storyboarding. But along the way, these lists usually start to feel confining and have to change when my characters suddenly take on lives of their own and turn in directions I never anticipated. What fun.

Story board for She's Got Game

So writers out there, what’s your way? Would you admit to being a member of the pantser club along with me and, um, Stephen King or are you one of those extremely organized writers, that I always envy, who start out with a twenty page synopsis before typing CHAPTER ONE on the page?



Kristen Painter said...

I'm a pantser and I don't apologize for it. All that organization stuff just doesn't work for me, instead, it sucks the fun out of the writing.

Marley Gibson said...

Congrats to the Giants! It sure quietened the locals here! LOLOL!

I am a plotter, all the way. I respect pantsers for what they're able to do, but there's no way on planet earth that I'd be able to work that way. I have to know my story from start to finish, from curtain up to closing credits with full orchestration, before I can even start writing. I see my plots like a movie and then when I write, I feel like I'm just transcribing what I'm seeing in my head. It works for me...but it won't work for everyone.

= )

pve design said...

deadlines work for me -
although as an artist, I do keep a journal for creative streaming, one to draw from!

Monica Burns said...

Pantser here, but I'm learning how a nicely developed synopsis can work as a plotting device, while still leaving me room to let the words flow across the page.

I liken it to taking a peek into the lives of my characters for a short time period. I just write what they do, their reactions to the consequences of their actions and the outcomes. That's the best part of writing. I'm like a reader, I don't know all the time what's going to happen next. I've got the skeleton, but I eat a lot of words to flesh out the body. *grin*

Gives me a reason to write off my favorite milk chocolate maple cream candies. LOL

Morgan said...

I have a friend who sits down to write and starts on page one, sentence one. She always goes in order, not planning a thing, but when she is writing, she ferociously types without pausing. When she reaches her daily word count she stops. She doesn't go back or edit. The next day she picks up exactly where she left off.

This is literally the opposite of what I do. I am a plotter. Before I can start the actual book, I have characters and place names, descriptions of the scenes, dialogue snippets, chapter counts -- the whole thing.

I don't recommend this way of writing since by the time I actually get ready to put the story together, I am bored with it. Maybe I should take a cue from my friend...

Ashlyn Chase said...

Hi Kwana,

I felt much the same when I read On Writing. I also felt better when he said he writes every day. He tells reporters he takes Christmas off, but it's not true. He really writes every day! I thought I was some kind of weird addict.

Yes, I was once a complete pantser, but now write much like you and Monica do... I start out pantsing and when I know the destination, I plot out how to get there. It's like going for a joy ride and suddenly thinking--Hey! Let's go to the beach. Okay, there are lots of ways to get there, but which road do we want to take?


Kwana said...

This is great! Ashlyn brings up a good question about the grass being greener. A great question is what kind of writer do we want to be and why can't we be happy with just how we do it now?

I'm one to always feel a bit of a stuggle and think someone else has that magic formula. I guess there is no magic formula except just do what you have to do to get the book written and not shead too many tears.

Thanks to all of you for sharing. Please continue. I love this conversation.

Mel Francis said...

well, I am a pantser...but I write proposals so I have to somewhat plot. unfortunately, sometimes the plotting messes up the writing I have to think of my synopsis as a guideline and not a done deal so I can write the story.

Maya said...

Mr. King's On Writing made me feel better about pantsing. I tried the whole detailed plotting thing, but it bored me, not to tears, but to writer's block. I can only picture one scene at a time, but as I do come up with where I want it all to go, I make notes so I won't forget. I struggle to envision the story arc, even though I know I won't stick to much of it.
I think revisions are much tougher this way, but I do what keeps my fingers typing away.

Melissa said...

Great thread! I like to outline chapter by chapter, but each outline may be just a sentence to describe the action that happens, then I "pants" my way through each chapter and let the words come--but I always know where I'm headed!

Kwana said...

I'm sort of like you Melissa. I know where I'm going just not exactly how I'm getting there. There are many turns along the way, but I guess that's the fun part. Especially for a gemini like me.

Got to keep that mojo like, Mel says.

Brown Girl Gumbo said...

Considering I have yet to finish my first novel...I must admit that I don't create an outline or get super organized. I know how I want it to end, but the middle is just whatever I feel like writing!!!

Kwana said...

Just hang in there Brown Girl. The trick is to keep writing a bit everyday no mater what your methods. Just keep writing and you'll get it done.

Gerb said...

I'm a wannabe pantser who is by necessity a plotter to keep up with the series and the deadlines. Before I was contracted, I liked to let the story meander, letting things happen and characters react, even though it meant weeding out a LOT for the finished product. It was a fun process, but not very efficient for me. So I plot. BUT I leave plenty of wiggle room in case the characters have other ideas.

Kwana said...

Linda, I love how you leave room in case your characters have other ideas.

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