Sunday, November 10, 2013

Day 01010: on writing methods

74,000 words on day 10. 7,500 of that is mostly discardable Rogue Dreams bits, but hey. The new start to said sci-fi story is going quite well and just proves, once again, that me and pantsing a story do not go well together.  I need more of an idea of where a story is going before I start out or it gets nowhere. Every time I've worked on this story it has been about themes, so this draft is tossing all that aside to focus on story. One of them three main characters -- in fact, the one the story was ostensibly about -- no longer exists at all. I know who is manipulating things, though their end-game is still a mystery, and the two MCs are playing off of each other rather well. I think I am going to need to tighten up the timeline and make it only a short time since the end of the war they were involved in, but that's minor.

What I have been thinking of, because of a friend's post on pantsing and plotting, is that those terms have done damage to a lot of writers. (I keep wanting to write 'untold damage', which must be nano creeping into my writing style :)) I don't think making the terms seem exclusive helps anyone, nor does saying a writer is one or the other: some stories can be done entirely by the seat of one's pants, others cannot. At the extremes, plotting is seen as writing out everything that happens in the novel so the story is basically the expansion of an outline where nothing surprising happens. Pantsing becomes, 'omg! AHHHH!' and rants about characters not doing what the writer wants. And so forth.

But ask any writer, once they start a story, about the story. Ask about characters, motivations, goals. And they know. It might only be subconsciously, in the case of the avowed pantser, but the author knows the characters, if not the exact thrust of the story they are going down. Ask 'if this ending happens, what does character B do' and they will be able to figure it out. The novel might be a choose-your-own-adventure in their heads, with story and plot not nailed down tight, but it seldom is for any author. Characters have their own voices. Ideas come up, things get nudged and changed.

Stories grow in the telling.

But thinking one has to write a certain way, that pantsing or plotting means a specific thing, is rubbish of the highest order. Every writer does what works for them. If something doesn't work, discard it and try something else. See what works best for the specific story you're telling. Don't become slaves to the terms, or take absurd pride in defining yourself by one or the other. They aren't mutually exclusive terms, or even clubs which one has to supply credentials to join. You're writing. So go write.


  1. funny - when I write I don't do it by word count. It's not relevant I do it by scenes.

    And you're right about the panster/plot issue. I only recently learned the word panster which I basically am. But I have learned from doing nano last year and from my screen writing class that one needs to plot. So I set out my plot criteria and within them panster. It works for me

    1. I tend to prefer to have setting notes more than plot ones: often my setting and character notes outstrip the plot by far (and a lot of plot notes tend to be setting stuff as well...). I do tend to do the same with plot: I have a rough outline/idea of where things are going and do it all in point form, leaving room to delete/alter/reorder as the story dictates.

      NOT having done that for this sci fi one is causing half the problems (like the lost 7,500 words I hope to salvage a little of later on in the story). I will probably take time out of writing the story tomorrow to figure out more of the actual plot part....