Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pantser, Plotter, or Gas Station Attendant

I used to be a very strict Pantser. (A Pantser is a person who writes by the seat of her pants, versus a Plotter who has notes arranged in color coded notebooks and knows the eye color of the guy who appears for two lines on page 56 and then gets killed by the rampaging were-simmons.) When I wrote my first YA, the one that got me agented, I wrote the whole thing, editing as I went, and then...THEN I wrote a revision post-it. It had little notes about the things I needed to change written in all different directions, and in my spare time I folded it into a little puppet guy. That was my one grudging nod to organization.

Flash forward a while. Now I have an editor. Editor points out that my Pantser, puppet making self has some serious issues with settings. And pacing. And the fact that one guy shows up and doesn't leave for about a hundred pages. (Why didn't I NOTICE that before?) I have no choice. I take on some Plotter tendencies. I make Excel spreadsheets. And I think, "Why didn't I think of this before? I'm ADDICTED to Excel spreadsheets. Ask my husband. I pretty much selected our house based on the strength of my Excel spreadsheet. I think I made our realtor's eyes roll back in her head when I gave her such a specific set of criteria for our house-to-be."

Organizing via Excel seems to work for me, although I started a new book using my old Pantser ways just because it's fun. And writing should be fun. I picked it as a career because it's fun, and that's no reason for it to stop being fun.

Can you tell I was trying to see how many times I could use the word "fun" in a paragraph before my eyes started to bleed? Apparently, that number is 4.

So now, I'm a strange hybrid of a Pantser and Plotter, kinda like a liger only not as kewl. But I've just learned that I'm doing it wrong. I should be asking the people at the gas station.

What about you? Are you a Pantser? Plotter? Gas station attendant? If so, I have this question about ninja weaponry...

22 comments:

Jen said...

I think I'm a little of them all. I mean why not? Life is supposed to be fun, so I like to mix it up.

My panster loving ways is what makes revision such a fabulous nightmare. (fabulous and nightmare? How can that be... even I have no clue, ask my brain later)

I've started to outline... haven't thought of spreadsheets... but now *opening excel*

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I used to be a pantser, but now I'm a bit of both too. I like to plot out the main structure, sketch out key scenes and then pants my way to join the dots.
haha.

Although I do love creating a good spreadsheet...

elizabeth said...

Well I was definitely a pantser until recently when I realized all it got me was thousands of deleted words and big plot holes. (Though who doesn't love a big plot hole really.) Now I use notebooks, index cards, calendars and fancy diagrams (ok maybe not fancy, maybe just...scribbly messes). Switching to Scrivener has been a huge help too. But for me, it's impossible not to be a bit of a pantser because, as you said, writing should be fun. And I'm not sure there's anything more fun than writing a random make-out scene! (Oh, or a random things-explode scene!)

abby mumford said...

i was a plotter, but not nearly to the extent that you Excel. maybe i should try that?

i just started my new WIP and i'm pantsing it all the way. it's scary! maybe i should put some shorts on to make it less creepy?

Barry Napier said...

A bit of both, depending on the story. This reply, however....total panster.

Kelly Breakey said...

I am a plotter. I have spreadsheets and I have software for writing and I have whiteboards with timelines and I am not happy unless I know who the first girl my MC had a crush on and at what age he lost his virginity.

beth said...

For my first ms I was a plotter. It sucked, felt trite. The next ms turned out pretty well, and that was a pantser. The one I'm working on now I guess would be a plontser. I decided what my main characters looked like, made some decisions about structure, and key plot issues, but not outline.

N. R. Williams said...

I'm a Panster taking detailed notes along the way. I use a word doc. to store them in.

Everyone is invited to a Viking Blog BBQ...see Tuesday's post on my site for directions.

Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Claire Dawn said...

Pantser by nature, but I turned a bit plotty during WIP 2. It had multiple POVs and was set in another world, so there was a stack of stuff to keep track of.

Tere Kirkland said...

I'm trying out pantsing after being a die-hard plotter for so long. I still need to know generally how the story is going to end, though, so I can write toward it.

Jeff Hirsch said...

Had an experience very similar to yours. I always wrote without any notes and discovered the story along the way, but now that there are agents and editors and deadlines and things involved, it doesn't feel like there's time for that.

Oh! I love excel too! I can't believe more people don't talk about what a great writing tool it can be. Plotting each scene out on a spread sheet helped me immeasurably on my last book. It really makes the structure plain as day. Can't wait to put the new book in there!

Bethany Mattingly said...

I think I'm a hybrid also. I'm a pantser at heart, but my WIP just isn't working without some serious organization. :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Pantser. Not good at spreadsheets. Doomed to BECOME a gas station attendant. *sigh*

Carrie Harris said...

I think I want to start a club full of Excel-using Hybrid Gas Station Attendants. You guys in?

Cate Gardner said...

I'm both... But not a gas station attendant. Things would go boom if I was left in charge of petrol. Actually, things tend to go boom even when I'm not.

Stephanie McGee said...

LOL. I'm a mix, too. That conversation was awesome. Thanks for sharing.

Carolyn V. said...

Actually a little of both. I plot and then I pants...did that sound weird?

Mariah Irvin said...

I think I'm a pantser, as awkward as that sounds!

John Q Public said...

I'm a hybrid. I have to admit to plot points for fiction and outlines for research works. In both cases I don't see any other way to keep things coherent, and for fiction, it helps make things more interesting. My completely random scatterbrain Ooo! Shinny! . . . can't deal with things otherwise.

Marsha Sigman said...

I was a Pantser but with little post-it notes.

Now I am a Pantser with really big post-it notes that contain rough outlines that I almost never stick with.

I think that makes me a Pantsotter. I can live with that.

brady said...

I'm a pantser in the sense that I like to sneak up behind people and pull down their pants. I do develop very intricate plots to achieve this end.

And in real life, I'm very by-the-seat-of-my-pants for my first draft. Once that's done, though, there are outlines and character bios and index cards pinned in a decipherable-only-to-me order all around my desk.

L.J. Boldyrev said...

I'm a pantster, but I'm starting to see the benefits of some plotting. Less rewriting.