Pantser, or plotter? How do you write?

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K_A_Webb

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Pantser, or plotter? How do you write?
« on: March 31, 2017, 05:59:50 AM »
The oft asked question, and one I always love to hear the answers to.

I'm a pantser. When I sit down to write I normally have the basic idea of what I want to write, but, mostly, I just let the words flow as they will. This doesn't always work out. Sometimes I do find myself writing contradictions, that mean working out why it's there. Often it's due to an unreliable narrator. My characters are more than willing to lie to me if they think it's necessary.

Before, when I was trying to become more of a 'proper' writer (I'd read far too many books that told me I needed to plot, otherwise I wasn't a 'good' writer), I tried plotting. The big issue with that, for me, was that my mind then considered that a written story. It was done. No need to do any more. Going back to it was impossible, although I could, if I really wanted, change certain things. Back then I was also trying to be a perfectionist. Stories were started multiple times in order to get the very best beginning there could be - only I quickly found that meant the only thing I was writing was the beginning. So now I write in the way that feels most natural to me. I start a story, I finish it, and I post it. I will go back to look over them later on, to check for any typos and maybe make a couple of small word changes. Apart from that it's done.

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Jedi Knight Muse

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Re: Pantser, or plotter? How do you write?
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2017, 10:06:29 AM »
I used to be a pantser. I'd just write whatever, and didn't care so much about the plot or whether or not it made sense. As I got older, I became way more aware of the fact that it needed to make sense.

I'm a planner, in that I at least have (most of) an outline for projects that I'm actually trying to turn into a novel, but sometimes I'm a pantser, too, depending on the situation (i.e. a writing challenge entry).

I wish I was more of a pantser. I think it would be easier on my brain if that were the case. I tend to write myself into corners where I get stuck and frustrated if I don't already have something figured out...which I have a feeling is going to happen a lot when I start writing for Camp. I think it's going to happen more when it comes to world building issues, though, because there's been a serious lack of it.  :-\
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K_A_Webb

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Re: Pantser, or plotter? How do you write?
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2017, 11:06:22 AM »
I think it easier for me, because I'm not trying to write a novel. Writing episodic fiction is a different beast entirely. Of course I was never great at planning even when I was writing novels, but then the focus was more on the plot, rather that giving myself the freedom to write something that might well be nothing more than a character study.

Let me know if you find yourself in a corner. I might be able to help you out of it. :) I'm also more than willing to help with the world building. I remember seeing you say you were stuck working out the magic system, and magic systems are something I seem to create on a daily basis. :D

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MagicMagor

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Re: Pantser, or plotter? How do you write?
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2017, 12:33:06 PM »
I'm pretty sure i'm mostly a plotter. Experience tells me if i try to pants a novel there will come a point (i think the farest where i got was chapter 5) where i have no idea how to continue. Even when writing a single scene, without planning i would use at least half of the time just starting at the blank page coming up with stuff to write.
If i however have a plan of whats going to happen in a scene, it basicly writes itself (well once i get into the rythm). I also feel that my scenes are currently very barebone, because i stick to what i planned out, which isn't in much detail. But thats okay as i plan to expand that during editing.

As far as planning a whole novel, i really need to know my ending beforehand. Having a plan of the main plot or major plot archs helps me creating an outline, which for me is just a list of basic scene ideas, but is also helpful when i hit a roadblock. Sometimes i might feel that there is a gap in my outline where the next planned scene is too far away from the last one i just wrote. Or i had changed some things slightly in the last scenes and now something else is missing or a planned scene doesn't fit anymore.
Whenever i have to come up with a new scene, these plot arcs help me to direct my creative thinking. I will take a look at plot arcs that didn't have much screen time yet, or where the last screen time was long ago and i might devise a scene for that arc.
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Jedi Knight Muse

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Re: Pantser, or plotter? How do you write?
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2017, 04:49:55 PM »
Let me know if you find yourself in a corner. I might be able to help you out of it. :) I'm also more than willing to help with the world building. I remember seeing you say you were stuck working out the magic system, and magic systems are something I seem to create on a daily basis. :D

I will absolutely be taking you up on that, 'cause I could definitely use help with both world building and the magic system. I have vague ideas for different magic abilities that exist in the world, and I know at least one magic ability that one of my main characters has, but I'm totally clueless/drawing a blank on everything else.

I don't even know what the magic abilities of the OTHER main character are at the moment, and that's...bad, 'cause even though I haven't done any actual writing with him using magic yet (which I'll definitely be fixing when I go back to do edits/rewrites...eventually) because I haven't known what his magic abilities are. But actually, this scene I have to start off with for Camp NaNo should possibly have a point where he has to use magic, so maybe I'll just kind of 'wing it' just to get it actually written just so that I don't get myself hung up on it and stuck.

At some point (soon, I hope) I'll try and come up with two separate Google docs for world building and the magic system that will hopefully be, like, somewhat organized and not just a bunch of notes thrown into it and send them to you to look at.
i really need to know my ending beforehand.

Same here, pretty much. I almost never have any ideas for an actual ending. -_- With my current project, I have a vague idea of how I THINK I'd like to end it at the moment, but it's very...Star Wars-y. Not necessarily a good or bad thing, considering it's also, I think, a typical way of ending a story, especially in the fantasy genre and especially with one that will likely have a sequel (or two).
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K_A_Webb

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Re: Pantser, or plotter? How do you write?
« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2017, 04:05:30 AM »
I will absolutely be taking you up on that

Great. :) I enjoy helping other people with their world building. For me it is one of the easiest parts, but I know not everyone sees it that way. When it comes to magical systems there are two main things I think are important - consistency and limitations. Unless there's a good reason for things to change keep your magic working the same way for everyone all the way through the book. (I've broken that with one world, but there is a good reason for things to change.) All magic, I think, needs limitations. I personally dislike it when magic solves all the problems. Instead I seem to make it so that magic makes all the problems.


As far as planning a whole novel, i really need to know my ending beforehand.

I think that's where, for me, it's very different. I know I'm writing generational stories, so there kinda is no true ending, but each person's story does have an end. One of my characters, Lucille, is the granddaughter of another character, and I'm working on both at the same time. Both of their stories are also leading towards the same point, but then so is the story of another character, who time travels, and he's lived through a lot. :)

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Tyrannohotep

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Re: Pantser, or plotter? How do you write?
« Reply #6 on: April 01, 2017, 05:34:59 PM »
I am probably more pantser than planner. Almost all my successes with writing have been short stories, and I think those are easier to pants than novels. It does help to have some idea of where I'm going, but I don't usually write any outline down. Or if I do, it's usually a very brief paragraph summarizing the story.
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Jedi Knight Muse

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Re: Pantser, or plotter? How do you write?
« Reply #7 on: April 01, 2017, 09:45:05 PM »
I will absolutely be taking you up on that

Great. :) I enjoy helping other people with their world building. For me it is one of the easiest parts, but I know not everyone sees it that way. When it comes to magical systems there are two main things I think are important - consistency and limitations. Unless there's a good reason for things to change keep your magic working the same way for everyone all the way through the book. (I've broken that with one world, but there is a good reason for things to change.) All magic, I think, needs limitations. I personally dislike it when magic solves all the problems. Instead I seem to make it so that magic makes all the problems.

I totally agree. I've never been good at coming up with specific limitations for magic that I've actually written into a story (usually because I haven't gotten far enough to be able to develop it), but I definitely always intend for there to be limitations to it, like having it weaken the user if they use a lot of powerful magic at once, to the point where they're kind of frail for a few days or a week or so depending on how powerful it is.

I'm working on trying to write for Camp NaNo at the moment (...more or less), but I think tomorrow (Sunday)-ish, I'm going to try and start working on that Google doc (actually, it'll probably be two separate ones 'cause I think the world building and the magic system stuff will need to be separated...not that there's TONS of stuff to even put in either of them) tomorrow, or at the very least some time in the next few days.
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Sheepy-Pie

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Re: Pantser, or plotter? How do you write?
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2017, 05:23:33 AM »
I'm a planster with heavy leaning on pantsing. I need a few spines of stability to keep me going though. I think maybe it depends on what I am writing though. I probably need the spines if I am writing something I have a good idea of, but if not then I pants it. '15 nano was pantsed and I made it, though havent touched the document since. '16 nano was plantsed but it is my WIP so I already had some things i know needed to happen. I usually write a short sentence of what is going to happen in that part, and that's it. I think they help me focus and give me mini goals to reach.

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Arc

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Re: Pantser, or plotter? How do you write?
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2017, 12:18:30 AM »
When it comes to stuff like world building I tend to plot plot plot. But actual plot and especially character development is pure seats of my pants.

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Re: Pantser, or plotter? How do you write?
« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2017, 10:49:54 PM »
Pantser here.

I'm frequently surprised at what I wrote after it's on the screen :) Having said that, I had a basic idea of my WIP before I started, I even had the ending! For the sequel I suspect I will be a plotter, mostly because I've started an outline of sorts about things I need to include in the second book. Who knows, maybe the outline will be helpful :)

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Re: Pantser, or plotter? How do you write?
« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2017, 07:45:09 PM »
I'm a plantser on a happy medium. I world-build extensively then dive in that world without a second thought. Once an idea is underway I might consider the end point, but the middle is only ever planned to the point of 'book 2: uprising—kill xxx, book 3: oops, namesake(?)'. Sometimes I even think about a character's future and jot down a scant note about their potential role in the grand scheme of things which often gets lost... not that it ever matters.

Too much plotting and I get too stressed to write. Not enough and I risk major inconsistencies not easily fixed by editing.
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Re: Pantser, or plotter? How do you write?
« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2017, 06:41:37 PM »
I think I am more of a a pantser. Generally I do a brief outline and some notes about main characters, but then I just go for it. I find that if I plan too much, I lose interest in the story.


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JayLee

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Re: Pantser, or plotter? How do you write?
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2017, 07:38:21 PM »
Planster all the way :) Rather... I'm dead inconsistent. Sometimes I need nothing to start, sometimes just a character and a concept, sometimes I've been mapping story in my head for upwards of 12 years (aka... since I started writing). Regardless, by the time I do start, I just jump in and have no idea where I'm going. I let the characters build the book, so to say. About halfway through the book though I realize if I don't have a plan it will fizzle and die. Then I tend to write 6-15 page annotated, footnoted synopses complete with side notes, illustrations, maps, world-building whosawhatsit, etc.

I was actually told once to try writing the last chapter after writing the first chapter, and it could keep a book on track without taking away from any feeling of pantsing though... I have yet to try this marvelous idea!
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ScribblerKat

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Re: Pantser, or plotter? How do you write?
« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2017, 12:08:57 PM »
Plantser here. First I get my characters defined. Then I determine the structural points - midpoint first, then climax, then the rest - and do a framework outline, working from point to point. I keep a brainstorming file called "What I know about this story", and once the outline is roughed in, I add those things. Then I do a scene-by-scene outline.

But I keep in mind, always, that the outline can be changed. This is where pantsing comes in. As I write, new ideas come to me, and of course the characters come to life and start telling me what to do. So I constantly adjust the outline as I write.

This method does take up more time than I want to spend, since I'm eager to start the actual writing. But long and often bitter experience has taught me that this system works for me, so I do it.
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