Can a Pantser Become a Plotter?
I’ve always been more of a pantser (writing by the seat of my pants) than a plotter when it comes to writing. I usually have a big picture in mind when I write, but how I get there is left to the imagination. When I’m in the midst of a fiction writing project, I love getting up in the morning and asking myself – I wonder what my characters will do today? It’s an adventure.
This has worked for me so for, but this past summer, I struggled to complete the novel I was working on. I had a general idea in mind, but no underlying plot before beginning. Instead, I wanted to see where the novel would take me.
I was surprised by some of the twists and turns. At times, the writing felt piecemeal. And when it was done, I felt like I was patching holes and trying to sew fragments together into a seamless whole. I found myself thinking – Wouldn’t it have been easier if I had had more of an outline to follow from the start?
At the same time, I read an article online about the benefit of outlining, even if you are a pantser. With NaNoWriMo on the horizon, I had decided to give it a try. I wasn’t going to outline my next novel to death, but I was going to go into November with more of an outline in place than I had for my previous novel. (Confession—I had had no outline for that one so this was not going to be hard to do. Any outline would be an improvement.)
Perhaps it was because of the magic of NaNoWriMo and the power of that month, or perhaps it was the power of my outline. Either way, the book came together much more easily than the previous one and had more continuity and a better flow.
I was not a slave to the outline. A number of plot points I had originally planned, were left behind in the creative process. My characters still took me places I had not thought of before I started. Still it was more coherent and needed less editing.
So, will I ever try “winging it” again like last summer or have I become a confirmed plotter? Don’t know. I doubt that I will ever become one of those writers who outline every chapter before they begin a new novel. I kind of like this outline stuff, as long as I’m free to make changes along the way. It does help to have a little more direction before starting. So, yes, a confirmed pantser can learn from plotters and even change . . . some.
What about you? Are you a pantser or a plotter, or something in between? What has been your experience with outlines?
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