There’s a lot of talk going on in the writing community about whether you identify as a Plotter or a Pantser. I know, apparently you need to keep up with the lingo if you want people to take your writing seriously.
In short, a Plotter is someone who plots a lot (obviously). They make an outline and spend a lot of time plotting what’s going to happen in the story before actually writing it. A Pantser is kind of the opposite. They make it up as they go along, letting their characters determine the direction of the story as they’re writing it.
There are clear benefits with both of them. A Plotter usually knows beforehand what the next step is and would therefore not get stuck as often. A Pantser, however, might be less constrained by too much planning and overthinking things.
Sometimes, stories evolve by themselves as the characters and worlds we create become alive. That’s definitely something I’ve noticed as I was writing my first draft. I’m a Plotter – but I wish I could write like a Pantser at times. I’ve spent so much time making my outline, and in the end, I had to change a lot of things because it didn’t feel right anymore. As my story had evolved, it no longer fit my initial plan for it. Like I had created something… organic.
I’m too much of a control freak to let go and have my story take me to new places; I want to be in the driver’s seat. This means that I’m constantly fighting the natural progression of things. Kind of like shooting myself in the foot during a marathon. I might be stubborn enough to reach the end eventually, but I’ll do so on a painful limp just to prove a point. Or at least, I would have done before – but now I’ve realised that things don’t exactly work that way.
It’s difficult to know when to remain in control and when to let go. Sometimes when reading my manuscript I find little hints that weren’t put there intentionally. It could be foreshadowing to a completely different ending, perhaps, or a character acting in a way that goes against my initial portrait of them. That is when I have to decide whether to remedy this by going with my original plan – or to act upon these hints and make significant changes to the story. Each and every one of these hints means a new, major decision that no label can make for me.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that, whether you identify as a Plotter or a Pantser, be careful of putting labels on yourself and your writing. Whilst some people might feel safe knowing what works “best” for them, my experience is that it can also hold you and your story back from its true potential. Just a little something worth thinking about this fine Friday afternoon.