Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Plotter or Pantster?

After four intense days with my brainstorming group, I returned home last week and got down to business.  It was time to plot the fourth book in the Button Box mystery series.

And talk of plotting, of course, brings up that ever-important question writers always ask each other: are you a plotter or a pantster?

My understanding is that pantsters literally write by the seat of their pants.  As they write, the story reveals itself, and they go along for the ride.  I know people who write this way and they produce fine books.

I, however, am not one of them.

I am a plotter, and I just spent the last week proving it.  I write from a pretty complete outline and coming up with that outline is often painful and tedius.  I should know, I just spent 7 days doing it.

I start with bullet points of what's going to happen: Josie attends the show at the art gallery, Josie meets the suspects, Josie meets the victim, Josie finds the body.

The next time I sit down, I add to that: Josie attends the show at the art gallery in the old church.  It's being held there because the fancy gallery that was supposed to host the show . . .

I go on and on, and my pages are pretty much a running dialogue with myself.

Why would she do that?  I write.  And then I try to come up with answers to my own questions.

Eventually, I go back and get rid of all the dead-end ideas that took me nowhere.  And I break it all into chapters.  When I finally felt satisfied with my outline, I had 20-some pages to go on.  It's not everything, but it's a start that gives me a cushion.  I know where the story is going.  I know how it's going to get there.

I'm always asked if outlining robs the writing process of creativity.  Absolutely not!  Though I know what's going to happen in the story, I don't always know how it's going to happen.  For instance, I know that somewhere along the line, Josie's going to find a voodoo doll that's obviously meant to represent her.  Will it arrive in a package?  Mysteriously appear on her desk?  Be outside her apartment door?  I don't know yet.  I guess that part of my process makes me a pantster!

Of course all this doesn't mean I can't change my mind about things.  As I write, I remind myself that my chapters--and my ideas--are fluid.  But for now, I've got a nice map to follow.  Ah, the joys of being a plotter!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


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Sharon Stogner said...

sounds like a logical way to do it! I would think mysteries have to be plotted out more than other genres.

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