|Mario, Super Smash Bros Wii U|
|Link and Yoshi, Smash Bros Wii U|
Let our combatants duke it out!
Pantsing usually occurs when a character, or a plot, pulls at the writer and must be told. Sometimes it can come from a scene, or an ending that the author simply can't get out of their mind. That's how it works for me. I see a storyline, I find my ending and I simply have to write it. I may take a few notes along the way, post-it notes are my best friend, but it's characters and a world that calls so strongly that I don't feel like I have time to write a ton of notes or outlines.
Here are some of my tips on pantsing:
1. Know your genre- I think this is true of both plotting and pantsing. Know who you're writing for. If you think your writing for YA, but the character you're seeing is middle grade, your story is going to come out middle grade. Be aware ahead of time the group you're writing for and what style you're writing. It'll save you a lot of re-writes in the long run.
2. Know your setting- You had a vision of the ending scene of your story. Great. Now you have to figure out the important parts that you're going to need to go back to the story and tell it from the beginning. There are a few parts that every pantser needs to know in advance. Where is your story told? What time is it being told in? If the story starts in the south of France and moves to Kentucky without your character ever boarding a plane, you've got a problem and a lot of rewrites. As carefree as we want pantsing to be, there does need to be a little forethought.
3. Know your characters- Do you need to write a big bubble outline of every character trait your MC has? I never have. I see the basics of my character. Blonde hair, blue eyes, maybe a little snarky or like Sherlock Holmes (the Robert Downey Jr. version). Great. Write those down. Most of the time your character will develope their own peronality as you write, but it helps to have a few notes so you don't forget, if you step away, that your character has minty green eyes and silvery lilac hair.
4. Keep writing- This is tough because sometimes in pansting it's easy to get stuck on a plot hole. There are times where you want to take a step back, or when you have to take a step back and then you re-read and you think I hate all of this and want to erase it all and start over. Don't. Pantsing is really about editing. It's about getting the words out of your head and onto paper because your character is screaming to have his/or her story told. Don't stop writing. If you get stuck, skip ahead to a scene you are ready to write and come back, but don't re-read and re-write. Get it all out, then go back and make changes. Keep the momentum.
You aren't alone. Nora Roberts said, "I never know where my story is going. I sit down at the computer to find out."
|Link Final Smash, Super Smash Bros Wii U|
By now you're probably thinking she's biased. She's a pantster and she chose Link (her favorite video game character) to represent pansting. How can she objectively look at plotting?
Well, I've plotted. My first three complete manuscripts I pantsed, but the time finally came where I felt the need to plot. Plotting requires a lot of work. There are spreadsheets and color codings. Robison Wells posted a picture on facebook once of those big science poster boards with a crazy flow chart of arrows and colors for a novel he was working on. Holy Hannah. The thought of all of that work on top of writing and editing blows my mind, but it is often needed. There are a lot of people who have crazy schedules, who aren't stay at home mom's that can write when the kids take naps or go outside to play. A lot of authors have a job or two plus a household to run. Keeping track of a storyline can just add to the already piled workload. That's where plotting and outlining come in.
Plotting and outlining have great resources. Pinterest has helped when searching for the perfect look for a character, or a setting I couldn't quite see. Scrivener has a lot of tools to help take notes or keep track of ideas. Some prefer paper over computer programs. Old school bubble outlines are my preferred method, but whatever method you choose, plotting helps structure and keep organized while writing.
When plotting and outlining for my last ms, I noticed that I knew the ending. The characters had birthdates and astrological signs that pointed to personality traits. Settings weren't just a vision in my head but an actual place that I could research or tour and make notes along the way. I knew all of the plot structure so there was a lot less guessing and stepping away. Was it easier? I don't know. They both felt like they were easy and hard at times, but it was nice to have the notes ahead of time to go back to whenever I got stuck.
Here are a few of my tips for plotting:
1. Get a Pinterest account- I've already said it, but I want to say it again. Pinterest is incredibly helpful for envisioning characters and setting. Create a storyboard to post to. Identify the characters and who they are. Post pictures of outfits, houses, beautiful scenery and anything else that's going to help the story. Why? Because sometimes it's easier to picture if you can already see it.
2. Find a program that works for you- Maybe Scrivener and Excel are the programs for you with spreadsheets and color coding. Maybe you prefer writing it out by hand with bubbles or bullets. Or maybe you're the kind of person who likes dozens of posterboards stretched out across the room with colors and lines and every point possibly in the ms. Doesn't matter so long as it works for you and don't get discouraged if the first way you try doesn't work. Keep trying until you find the one that does.
3. Do your research- Plotting and outlining requires research. It's what makes plotting and outlining what they are. It helps the writing to run smoothly and allows the author to be able to step away for a while and come back knowing exactly where they were and where they were going. Plotting and outlining require discipline. Know your characters inside and out, know the world you're creating, know where your story is going. That's why outlining is useful and helps when life gets too busy or for people who just like structure. It may only be a line or two about the plot, but it keeps you on track. If research isn't your thing, try pantsing.
A lot of well known authors are known for their plotting such as J.K. Rowling, Sylvia Plath and Norman Mailer.
|Mario final smash, Super Smash Bros Wii U|
There is no right or wrong way. Pantsing may work for one story and not with another. Some people may always pants, others may always plot. Find what works for you. Experiment with both types and go with whatever feels more natural. Don't pick one because someone tells you it works better, or they wouldn't ever use the other. Just like every writer and every book, every process is different.
|Mario and Link, Super Smash Bros Wii U|