Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Plotting By The Seat Of My Pants

Plugging away.

That's how writing goes often. Keep chopping wood. Put more words on the page.

Writers know that there are two general methods for getting a story on paper. The plotters love to outline, charting each scene and building up a framework that their words can fill in. The pantsers, so named for writing by the seat of their pants, make it up as they go.

Not quite the idea...
The plotters like knowing where they are going, having a map or blueprint to follow. The pantsers will tell you how their story can be more organic, being surprised by the twists and turns that pop up along the way.

How about a middle way?

Of course people do this all the time. You don't have to be tried and true to one method to get to "The End."

I was surprised when this started happening with me though.

I've always been an outline guy when writing papers. In college I would do my research, label it all out with Roman numerals and A. B. C., and when I was all done, write my final draft as my first draft. All done. Ready to go!

Yeah, it's not that easy when writing a novel.

Closer? I dunno...
I have a general outline in my head. I know where my protagonists need to be...eventually. I have the ending all worked out. There was just a little problem with the middle, and getting them to where they needed to be. A small issue.

I kept dealing with writer's block whenever I finished a point on my outline. Where to go next? How do I get there?

I've started doing it by the seat of my pants.

A technique that I've found effective for me is to set my phone's timer, meaning I can't browse the internet for some obscure fact that I HAVE to have for my next scene, and start writing. It might not be the best prose in the galaxy, but I have made progress.

It has been propelling me past these sticking points. I'm forced to make a decision and go with it.

And there's been some good stuff come out of it. Who would've guessed?

I still have my general outline and I still know where I want to end up. But the process of getting there has become more interesting. Hopefully it all turns out when I get there!

So if you're writing and wondering how best to do get moving - do whatever it takes. There's no need to just plot or pants it. The point is words on the page.

Time to go set my timer...


  1. I agree, a plot is not always required. My latest novel had no plot at all until I had created 8-10 characters and given them life. Then today I sat down with a pen a linked them together in a loose plot and they seem to be getting along just fine.
    But anyone who knows me will tell you I am deffo a seat of the pants guy, in life a well as words!
    Good luck.

  2. I've got another book idea with very loose plot ideas, but interesting characters to explore. That could be the way to go for that one.

    It definitely comes down to what the story requires, whether it is tightly plotted or loosely improvised. Thanks for stopping by Andy!