Wednesday, August 7, 2013

IWSG - I wish I were a plotter

It's time for another installation of The Insecure Writer's Support Group, which posts on the first Wednesday of every month and is run by our Ninja Captain Alex Cavanaugh. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds.

I'm stuck.

Yep, I'm on chapter six of "The Damned" and I'm not sure where to go. Well, I know where I want to go, but I don't know how I'm getting there. It's time like this that I wish I were a plotter instead of a pantser. I've been staring at my computer screen for so long, I did this:

Yep, that did just happen. Blah blah blah...

There's always the age old discussion with writers: Are you a plotter or a pantser? I'll always be a pantser. There was one novel I wrote, an epic fantasy novel, which I was a plotter for once. I had to have the points outlined or I couldn't get any writing done for the day. It was intense. I still have pages of plot points written in a notebook.

But by nature, I am a pantser. I write by the seat of my pants. Or maybe I just put my butt on the seat and write. That might make more sense. I do like to have an overall story idea and how I want the story to shape up, along with some basic plot points in my head. Sometimes I scratch them down. But I can't tell you how many times my characters have taken the plot and ran with it. It doesn't always work, but I like being a pantser most of the time. Until I get stuck.

How I feel if I were forced to be a plotter:

How I feel as a pantser:

Are you a plotter or a pantser? And if you are a pantser, how do you get past a stubborn point where you are just stuck?

(Side note: This post was partially inspired by Susan Francino at The Feather and the Rose.)


  1. I'm an odd mix of both. Like you, I make notes and plot points...even go so far as mapping out chapters, but then I start writing and sometimes I use the info and sometimes the characters take their own paths.

    (I once wrote "insert sex and blah, blah, blah" and forgot it was there and I sent it off to publisher, fortunately she has a sense of humor and flagged it for a rewrite!)

  2. I just commented on another blog that I am definitely a pantser, so I understand where you are coming from! I like the trill of writing and seeing where it takes me but sometimes like you I have hit a block. Maybe try taking yourself away for a while and thinking about something else entirely. Not easy I know, but sometimes I've had ideas spring into my mind that way! Good luck :)

  3. I'm a plotter, but not a very good one! I always do outlines and plans for my stories, but more often than not I don't stick to them. So I guess maybe I'm a bit of both.

  4. 80 to 90% pantser. I just can't plot. So yeah, I recognize the "I know WHERE I want to go, I just don't know HOW to get there" feeling!

  5. I go way beyond plotting -- character studies, thematic studies, maps, setting studies... For me, writing is like sewing. You create a design, make a pattern, chose the materials, then you began construction... Happy IWSG day!

  6. I tried plotting once. It didn't end well for me or the story.
    Maybe you can get beyond the blah, blah, blah by writing a candy bar scene. Something to get you going again and you can fill in the blah's later.

    Wishing you luck.

  7. Plotter or Pantser eh? Well, I am a pantser in all things in life including writing. However, I have learned the usefulness of short term plotting. When I get stuck as a pantser, I find it useful to become somewhat of a plotter. I write an outline of what has happened, what I know I want to make happen and I try to fill in the blanks. It always helps me to have a visual!

  8. Started off as a pantser. But after the fourth or so rewrite of one novel, I've turned into a bit of both. I start off a project writing all crazy with the end goal in mind until, at about 20,000 words in, I settle down to figure out how they're going to get there.

    You could say I write A to B via Q. Curveballs are generally involved.

  9. I'm a recovering pantser. Plotting is so much easier. The thing people get caught up in is believing that having an outline or a plot summary means you are trapped. You aren't. You can change your outline a thousand times.The point is simply that you know the arc of your story. That can be as simple as:

    Boy and girl meet in a funny way
    Something about a waitress with big hair
    She learns to not be afraid of karaoke
    He learns to communicate
    There is a party in town
    They fall in love

    There's a lot of wriggle room there, but you have an idea where you want it to go and you have some pit-stops that you must use, but you also have lots of time for detouring. Even with a big, detailed outline, you are free to change anything you want. It's just a guide, not a prison sentence.

    Good luck!

  10. I do both. Depends on the book for me. Sometimes plotting works, and sometimes I don't know the end from the beginning but I have character screaming to be written. So I just write them and hope some story comes out of it, which usually does. When I get stuck, I either work on a different story, or I sit down and have a talk with my characters to figure out where they see the story going vs. where I see it going. If I wrote this anywhere else I'd be certifiable. I love being a writer!

  11. I bought the book The Weekend Novelist, which I think is a book for plotters. It's got very good writing advice, but it's hard for me to plot out stories beforehand; I tried a few times but I couldn't finish the outlines. I like being a pantser because I like being surprised by what I write.