I prefer to combine the two, without writing an entire book-length outline. Let me explain my thoughts on this debate.
Pantsers argue they are free to listen to the story and the characters. It is a muse-centric approach, with the characters exploring the milieu and wandering about discovering the story. All fine and well. It is interesting how a story can take on a life and allow a writer to document scenes and fill in the story.
Plotters say there is no way a story can take shape without a road map: it requires a structure to allow the characters to face their inner and external conflicts. The characters are forced to face their fears. Plotters like to know where the story is headed.
Here is my take: Pantsers need to outline and Plotters need to be open to just writing.
In my experience, without an outline I have twice been abandoned by my characters in the second act. They exhibit attention deficit disorder and climb out of the book. The characters say “well, that’s all I got,” and the story sort of fizzles out. I’m rewriting “Fish Tacos: Or How I Went To Mexico to Save My Soul” because the main character started bitching about his past and failed to get off his butt. Sure, I’m the writer, it is my story, but I let the character dictate where he would go and when he would get there. Believe me, if left to his designs, the main character would still be sitting in the desert waiting to move.
So now I plot everything: short stories; novels; non-fiction; and, screenplays. I give the viewpoint characters a purpose and a timeline to meet. I challenge them to face their demons. I gift them happy successes. By the time the story ends, they see their doubts, obstacles, challenges, and growth.
In some ways this is the perfect way to write by the seat of your pants: the story structure lets them wander about, as long as they meet their deadlines. So I guess I’m a Pantser Plotter . It seems to be working.[plain]How do you plan your projects? Do you outline or just let it flow? Leave a comment below.[/plain]
Writing – the actual practice of sitting down and writing – has never been a problem. I mean, the actual knocking out of words. The words flow when I need them too and I can write understandable sentences. Those words are for work assignments; I never have trouble writing for work.
Creative writing is a challenge. It always feels like it should come as easy as my non-fiction or technical writing. And it should be perfect on first draft. That perverse thought comes from my television career. When writing news it is a once-off and there is no time for multiple drafts. You correct the errors on the next version and send it off to the teleprompter. Such is the quick pace of writing television news stories.
However, with creative writing, I want the words to flow and the stories to build without hesitation. It is never the case; creative writing requires more effort. I sit and get stuck in the character, or the plot takes a turn, or I get down a rabbit hole and it leads to a dead end. Creative writing makes my back hurt.
So I must make the time. Create a schedule and stick to it. Allow the stories to be told in their way rather than forcing the words to tell the tale. Take some time to ponder. Listen to the words. Then write them down.[plain]What kind of a writing schedule do you keep? Add your thoughts to the comments below.[/plain]