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Monday, June 3, 2013

Oh No! When Did I Become a Plotter?!

MUSE MONDAY
A couple of weekends ago, I attended an all day workshop hosted by one of the RWA chapters I belong to, Valley of the Sun RWA. Larry Brooks presented the Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing. I don't intend to give you a summary of the workshop, but I came away with a discovery about myself. (Remember my blog is called Discover Yourself.)

Until I heard Larry speak, I thought I was a pantser. I learned early on, way back in BBP (before being published) that there are two kinds of writers - plotters and pantsers. As you might guess, pantsers write by the seat of their pants, no planning or plotting involved. My first published book came about as an idea for a short story inspired by my sister who was between marriages at the time. I began writing, and it just kept going until it was a book. I certainly didn't plot it. I didn't even know three of the characters were going to be in the book until they showed up in their first scenes. And I had so much fun writing it that way that I tagged myself a definite pantser.

Plotting is so boring. Making outlines and sculpting each scene seemed dry, lacking in knee-jerk creativity and so organized! Then I heard Larry rail on about pantsers. He really had some valid points. And it kind of ticked me off. Until I realized, I'm not a true pantser. In fact, I'm not a pantser at all. Being a plotter doesn't mean you HAVE to do an outline or the other boring things I THOUGHT plotters do. He spoke of storyboards, post it notes, character research, knowing your ending, keeping track of events and on and on.

Ah-oh...all the things I have done or used in one form or another. And I do know how my book will end when I begin. I might have new characters walk into the story unplanned or new scenes come to mind as I write, but I do have a plan. My characters each have their own files with all kinds of information that might not even make it into the book. I do keep a chapter by chapter time line. I do a rough synopsis. Oh my gosh! I actually do plan and plot.

Discovering what kind of writer I am isn't the only thing I took away from the class. The rest is technical and should help me from now on. But crossing over from pantser to plotter was the biggest wow!

14 comments:

  1. Brenda--now you have me doubting myself. Yes, I do consider myself a pantster. I've never made an outline or storyboard...but then I do have a notebook with thoughts as they come about any recent WIP. Does that make me a plotter? Probably more than I thought!
    My very first book, Texas Blue, really was by the seat of my pants. I'd never written anything and just began with a young woman walking barefoot along a dusty path in a forest. I had no idea who she was, and then I added a little daughter...
    I suppose all of us are plotters to some degree. Still, on the scale, I'd lean more toward pantster.
    Excellent article! Thanks.

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    1. Hi Celia. Not sure if you are a true plotter. One thing Larry said is that pantsers aren't sure where the book is going when they begin it. Which is how my first book went for most of it. I think you lean more to the pantser side, too. Thanks for your comment!

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  2. Welcome to the plotter world :) I try to be one.

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  3. I guess I'm a plotter too! Like you, I thought I was a pantser, but recently I've been having a writing style identity crisis. Good to know I'm actually a pantser and not alone in my confusion. Lol thanks for the post.

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    1. I think it's more important to me everyday that I have a system. As my current series is murder/suspense/romance, I'm finding a method and sticking to it. Amazing how much fast I write.

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  4. Hi Brenda,
    Great post. I'm also a plotter who used to be a panster. I like to keep the global outline in my head but I'll often outline on the chapter level. :)

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    1. I used to hate to do a synopsis (and still do when it's for an editor) but now I've found it's a great plotting tool. I can't usually do one until I'm into the book a chapter or two but it's a great way to keep me on track. The thing is, it will change. My ending is the same, but how I get there may take a twist or two because the synopsis is so general. I still consider that plotting. The synopsis is my global outline.

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  5. I've found over the last year after reading about plotters and pantsers that I guess I'm a "plotster" because I do know what the book is about as well as (maybe) the ending and who the characters are as well as the first few chapters - making me not a true plotter, right?

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    1. Patricia, one of the points Larry made about pantsers is they will change course in their ms without regard to how it impacts the whole story. So for instance if you're going on vacation to Florida and along the way you decide it's more fun to end up in New Jersey, then something just isn't going to ring true if you tell everyone you took a Florida vacation. He says that's how true pantsers operate. With writing a ms, that means you have to rewrite the whole dang thing. He says instead of plotting, pantsers just keep doing rewrites - very time consuming.

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  6. Like you, Brenda, I used to consider myself a pantser because the idea of detailed outlining traumatized me. But then I, too, realized I do a lot of the plotting steps--knowing the end, etc. I think that makes me a plotser, too.:)

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    1. Barbara, yep, plotser works for a lot of us!

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  7. Well Brenda, I USED to be a pantster until it I painted myself into corners with both a Regency and a romantic suspense. You simply cannot write rom. sus. and hope for the best!

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    1. Oh so true, Vonnie. My current romantic suspense series is what really made me turn the corner!

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