Four Levels of Plotter/Pantsers



On Wednesday we talked about if a plotter/pantser can change their stripes.  First, thanks for all the comments, it's given me a lot to think about. (Although some of you guys scared me with the I-tried-to-plot-and-it-killed-the-novel-for-good stories, lol.) I think what seems to be important is to figure out what your process is like and then use the methods that play to that.

 For instance, one of the things to consider is where does the novel-writing process start for you.  When you're working on a new idea--what comes to you first? What do you need to have sorted out in your brain before you start writing? I think the answers to those questions defines what type of pantser or plotter you are.
So here are some types I've come up with (feel free to add more in the comments!):
The "True" Pantsers--The Writing Equivalent to Sky-Diving
What they start with: Hardly anything. A first sentence. A hook. A setting.
What they do: Jump into the unknown enthusiastically for the thrill of discovery, hoping the parachute will engage when needed. 
Benefits: Tend to be the people that can bust out a draft at lightning speed. You get to write as soon as the inspiration strikes. Can jump around the story and just write scenes that inspire you at the moment.
Drawbacks: No pre-planning could mean plot holes. Writing and then realizing the story is inherently flawed. Losing inspiration. Having a pile of words that need MAJOR editing at the end of it.
The Clark Griswold Pantser (I talked about this here. This is what I am.)
What they start with: They have some kind of plan starting out (going to Wally World), though inevitably they go off course and end up enjoying the scenery better in the uncharted territory.
What they do: Have something in their back pocket before setting fingers to keys. For instance, for me, I start with characters because I'm a character-driven writer. So, I need to fully flesh out the characters backstories before getting started. I also like to have the inciting incident (or as I like to refer to it--the "oh sh*t" moment) and the major conflict figured out before I start writing. Then I fly into the mist.
Benefits: You feel somewhat prepared going in. You know enough about your characters that when you throw them into situations, you know how they should react. 
Drawbacks: You will inevitably hit blocks where you're not sure where to go next. This can lead to wandering, pointless scenes. This can also mean you go down the wrong path for a while and will have big cuts. 

The Combo Meal or Plotsers
What they start with: A skeleton of a plot and some knowledge of the characters.
What they do: These are people who probably work well with something like the 3-Act structure or the screenplay method. They know the hook, the conflict, the major turning points, the black moment, and where they want to end up. All the individual scenes are discovered as they write.
Benefits: You know where you're going, but still get the excitement of not knowing what's around every little corner.
Drawbacks: Even knowing this much could kill the creativity of a true pantser and not knowing enough could stress out the hard-core plotter. Also, sometimes the big points don't string together like you hoped and then you have to go back to the drawing board.

The Military Precision Plotter
What they start with: They KNOW what happens in the whole story. Every chapter has been outlined, characters have been interviewed, post-it notes have been aligned and color-coded. Scenes are numbered. Corkboards or Scrivener have been utilized.  (Oh, how I envy this type!)
What they do: They outline, plan, brainstorm problems before they even start the story.
Benefits: Less fear of the unknown. Fix problems before they pop up. You know where you're going and how you're going to get there.
Drawbacks: If this isn't your natural way, this can make the process feel clinical and dry and ruin the fun of writing. This takes time, so it may mean less edits on the back-end but you have to be patient on the front end. All the planning doesn't guarantee a great story--until you put words to page, you don't know if it's really going to sing.

So, I'm sure there are endless variations in between all those, but what I think  is important is to figure out where your writing thrives. And my guess is that if you want to be more one way or the other, you probably don't want to venture more than one level either way. For instance, a true plotter will probably never be able to become a true pantser (and vice versa.)  As much as I envy the plotter, I know my best shot is probably shooting for working within the screenplay structure. I'll never be a plot-every-scene-ahead-of-time person.


But I also think it's important to experiment with the different ways in the beginning because you may think you're one thing and are something completely different.

So where do you fall on the scale? Where do you want to be? What other levels/labels do you think would fit in here?

**Also, I'm guest blogging today at Heather Long's Daily Dose. My post is on Blondism: The Bias Against Blond Heroes in Romance.  Check it out here and leave some comment love (there are hot pictures of guys involved)!


**Today's Theme Song**
"Who Are You" - The Who
(player in sidebar, take a listen)