Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What's your process?

Writers are forever comparing how they write. It's not enough to simply chronicle a story, we must explain our process to other writers or would-be writers. It ain't just ego, either. It's sanity. Writing is damn hard and succeeding at writing is near impossible.

Stick two writers in a room and sometime after the "Why are we stuck in this room?" and "What genre do you write?" one will ask the other, "Are you a pantser or a plotter?"

This question is, in writer terms, the equilvalent of "What sign are you?" Pantsers write by the seat of their pants (hence the term, "pantsers"). They fly bravely into the wild blue yonder of creativity never doubting that the plane of their story will land safely at the prescribed destination. God, bless them. They probably bungee jump, too.

Not me. I am a plotter. None of that off-the-cuff stuff for me. I go off on writing tangents that last longer than an ice age. And...it's really baaaad stuff. Drivel. My characters have no direction and my plot becomes so convoluted that Dan Brown can't deciper it.

I need an outline.

Plotters nod their heads. They understand my need to put something down on paper before I, er...put something down on paper. It's a comfort thing like my kid and her favorite stuffed animal. It gives you something to hold onto, something to sleep on, and something to remind yourself that you really are a writer--you have a plot to prove it!

Of course, it doesn't prove anything because characters hijack plots all the time. Stories are fluid. They change. Chances are that only the basic framework or premise of my story will remain the same and when I look at my original outline I'll laugh myself silly.

And the pantsers will laugh right along with me.

So what's your process?


Thanks to Mac(3) on Flickr for the kewl "?"


  1. I like to plot, but my characters delight in running off and away from the plan. It's like they think they own the story. So I guess I'm a hybrid, part pantser/ part plotter. Good post.

  2. I'm a plotter with pantser tendencies. I refuse to start without a rough (and very simple) framework, and I love my outlines. I go through lots of outlines, though, since my story tends to change quite a bit as I'm going! And I don't so much plot my scenes as I do come up with an idea of what's going on and then just jump in. Hmm...I just read all of this and realized I'm a big ol' mess. But I guess it works! Great post!

  3. Thanks, Brenda! I actually think the allergy meds helped with my posting anxiety. ;)

    And Kendra, no way are you a mess! Not only are stories fluid, but you're developing as a writer, too! HA! A double shot of fluidity!

    Of course, the secret is to find what works for you. You say yeppers, then I say, "Congrats!"



  4. I love you anyway, Talia : )-debralee

  5. I'm a pantser. How else can you describe someone who dreams a scene and writes a 400 page manuscript around it?

    Although, I will admit, since my memory isn't what it used to be, I tend to write things down as they come to me. I can't be a plotter since I've no idea where the story is going until my characters tell me. And sometimes they're just too damn close-mouthed.

    Oops, can I say 'damn' on here?


  6. I am a pantser, in some very dirty pants :). If I pre-plot too much I tend to lose interest in the story. However, I do need to know what the finale of a book is before I can successfully write it.

    Jody W.

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