When I start writing a piece of fiction, whether a short story or a novel, I’ll jot down a couple of things I’d like to include, maybe where I’d like to see a character or the journey end up, maybe just a character I’d like to work with, sometimes as little as a sentence I’d like to include, and start from there. Strangely, I tend to do a little more preparation for a short story than a novel. After all, in a short story, you have a finite amount of words in which to develop a complete plot.
I am what you call a Pantser.
Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants, going wherever the story takes them. This is in contrast to a Plotter, who will carefully develop their plot and timeline before beginning the story. Plotters have a much easier time writing a synopsis, as most of the work has already been done. Pantsers, in my opinion, have more fun. One has only to look at the number of memes already developed for this duel to know that this is an age old debate not likely to be settled.
The truth is, I only want to write books that I would also want to read, and the books I absolutely LOVE reading are the ones that have twists and turns that completely take me by surprise. I’m sure there’s many a Plotter who plot fantastic twists and turns, but I don’t have enough time or energy for that. I figure that if I don’t know what’s going to happen, then there’s a better chance the reader won’t either.
That’s not to say that I don’t put any planning into what I write. I have a white board on which I write my suggestions for the next few chapters, and any ideas that come while I’m writing that I’m afraid I’ll forget. However, a white board can be easily erased – therefore, nothing I write on it is ‘in stone’, but rather points I may or may not touch upon, much like a speaker who uses only bullet points to develop their entire lecture.
Imagine my sheer delight when, 50,000 words into my WIP, everything’s on track and I have a pretty good idea where it’s headed, who the ‘perp’ is, etc., when out of nowhere, I realize I was wrong. What I’m putting on the page is leading up to an ending other than what I was expecting, something I hadn’t even considered, but which is so absolutely perfect, it left me positively giddy. I’m not arguing that Pantsing is better than Plotting, to each their own, but for me, surprising myself is one of the most rewarding parts of writing.
Are you a Pantser or a Plotter?