Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Plotter vs. Panster

There's been a war brewing between writers for a long time about which is best, plotting (being a 'plotter') or writing by the seat of your pants (the act of being a 'panster').  The truth is that whatever way you write is right for you.  But sometimes you can't always get away with your choice, and that's where compromise comes in.

When I first began writing in hopes of publishing, I sat down at the keyboard with two main characters in mind, maybe another one or two minor characters, an opening, and a glimmer of an idea of what the story was about.  I wrote, and then wrote more, trying to stay one step ahead of myself.  Did it work?  In many ways it did.  I entered writing contests in which I didn't do too shabby, and all the while my critique partners were telling me that I might want to try plotting.  Just in case I sold.  After all, the day might come when I would be submitting proposals that contained not only the first few chapters, but a complete synopsis, too.

And then it happened.  I sold my first book.  Once again, my cp's reminded me that learning to plot and writing a synopsis would be good for me.  But let's face it.  I'd never written a synopsis for a book that wasn't completely written.  Never.  By the third book, my editor decided I could submit a proposal, instead of a complete manuscript, and asked for three chapters...and a full synopsis.  Suddenly, I had to learn to plot.

I panicked.  But I also learned how to plot in advance.

But plotting means different things to many people.  Even pansters have learned to do a little plotting so they have a vague idea of where there story is going.  If you're like I was and believe that if you plot a book and know what's going to happen all the fun and joy would vanish, don't be afraid.  There are many degrees of plotting, and we'll take a look at them tomorrow.

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