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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pantsing Versus Plotting

One thing I always find interesting is how often pantsers (those writers who fly into the mist without an outline) try to learn how to outline. When I was a teenager and first realized I wanted to write, I read how-to books--all of them written by plotters. I turned myself inside out trying to follow the process these plotters said was The Way. I ended up hating to write and I nearly quit. I finally decided I'd have to just do it my way or I wouldn't write at all. To this day 3x5 cards bring back nightmares.

But has anyone ever heard of a plotter who's set out to fly into the mist? (T, you didn't mean to become a pantser, so that doesn't count!)

I've heard of pantser after pantser tie themselves in knots trying to learn to be plotters, but I can't think of even one story of a plotter tying his or herself in knots to learn to be more seat of the pants. Why not?

There's nothing wrong with pantsing, and while I do like having some structure before I get too far with the story, I'd hate to sacrifice the surprises. I honestly heard a plotter say that her characters never surprise her, that they follow her outline 100% of the time, and that was about the saddest thing I think I've ever heard. Why write the story if there's no surprises? That's the best part. The OMG Moment!

Like when I was writing In the Darkest Night and I finally learned what bothered Kel so much about his time held captive. The OMG moment energized me and I couldn't write fast enough to see that scene play out when he told Farran about it.

No, I wouldn't sacrifice the OMG Moment for an awesome outline. It's just too much fun when it hits. Maybe some books don't have huge OMG Moments, but they all have them. It's one of my favorite things about writing.