To Plot or To Pants [Writing]

plot or pantsFor a long time, writers have referred to themselves in one of two ways. As a plotter, or a pantser. The discussion around both appears in interviews, articles, on social media…anywhere you get writers talking, the question comes up.

Are you a plotter, or are you a pantser?

Personally, I’ve always been more of a pantser (the term comes from ‘flying by the seat of your pants’). I rarely plan things out, though I do ruminate on a current WIP, picture scenes and work through the story in my mind (usually before going to sleep). But as for fully plotting it? Nah, not for me.

See, I tried plotting. A long time ago, when I was still in secondary (high) school. It was coming up to NaNoWriMo, and I had an amazing fantasy idea that was going to blow everyone’s minds. Because I was 17 and of course it was. I plotted and planned and wrote up character sketches and when November hit I just…lost…interest.

It was like, because I knew the story, I no longer wanted to discover it. That was the excuse I told myself at 17, anyway, and ever since. I don’t plot. I just write. And sometimes it works. But more recently, I’ve started plotting a little more. I still pants, for short stories mainly, but even then, I at least have some idea of how I want it to start and end.

But the ideas I’ve had recently require more. They require more research, more careful consideration, more solid ideas of where and when A, B, C and D are going to happen.

In doing this, however, I will also give the story – and characters – room to breathe. I might have a particular scene planned for a certain chapter, but I know sometimes the story takes a turn even I might not expect. Ideas arrive in the shower, characters whispering in your ear, and sometimes, you just have to go with the flow.

So maybe I’m moving away from pantsing? At least a little. The WIP is currently in research stages, so we’ll see how it goes, but I’m interested in how this turns out, if plotting will work properly, or if it’ll end up in the air, and I’ll return to pantsing. Though maybe for me, the trick is to find the sweet spot between the two. We’ll see.

What about you? Are you a plotter, a pantser, or a bit of both?

 

Images

Rose & Book -Image by Daria Głodowska from Pixabay

Pencil & Notebook – Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Post It Notes -Image by Pexels from Pixabay

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Why I Write

First things first; I know, I know, it’s been….actually, over a year since I posted. I’m terrible, awful, should have updated more…I’m just not hugely good at keeping up with things. But I promise, I will endeavour to write more on this blog, not least because now I have something to actually update people with! More on that a little later.

Recently, I’ve had a little crisis of confidence when it comes to my writing. This happens from time to time, when I begin to wonder if this is something I actually am good at, or if I’m just wasting my time bashing words onto a keyboard that no one but me will ever read.

I write for the love of it. Because it is one of those things I think (sometimes) I am pretty good at. I’ve always had good feedback on my work, whether it was on FictionPress, in seminars at University, or on Scrib. Well, less on Scribophile but for the most part, the critiques are still encouraging – just more geared towards improvement than anything else. And without it, I really don’t think my stories would have improved as much as they have in the last year or so I’ve been on there.

I’m not looking for fame and glory, though I’d be lying if I said it wouldn’t be a nice bonus. Eventually, it would be amazing just to have an audience, even if it was just one person, and to know I’d made someone smile through my writing – whether a short story or novel – or wrote something they thought of days later, in the same way some stories cross my own mind.

Isn’t that what all writers want?

Even without that though, there are other reasons I persist.

Truth be told, before the last year or so, things haven’t exactly been easy. There have been ups and downs, and through the downs, through some of the worst moments of my life, writing has been a persistent and constant companion. I have used it to work through my own thoughts, or to draw myself into a completely different world where the things I’ve been dealing with don’t exist. I’ve also used my own experiences to give my characters, hopefully, depth; in some, they have some of the less well-known symptoms of depression, or find themselves at some sort of crossroads, where they take the path I, personally, didn’t.

I’ve always used writing in this way, pouring my thoughts onto paper in the guise of fiction. And it helps. Whether or not what I’m writing relates to what I’m experiencing at the time, focusing on the words stops me focusing on whatever is bothering me. And if I go too long without working on anything, I start to feel drained, my fingers itching to get something written, no matter what it is.

Things have been a lot better more recently. For a variety of different reasons. But still, I write. I write because I can’t not write. I write because when I don’t, ideas and characters crowd my head begging to be let out. I write because, well, I’m a writer. I kind of have to.

Taking Inspiration

Over Easter weekend I went to Margate to visit my brother and his girlfriend with my dad. Basically, it’s a journey directly east across the country, mainly on the motorways. On the way there I fell asleep before we left Cardiff, and woke up near Reading. On the way back, I fell asleep for about an hour. Most of the rest of the time was spent reading; there’s not a lot to really look at on that journey.

cardiff to margate.png

We arrived on Good Friday. Went out in Margate in the evening and by Saturday I realized I desperately needed a notebook. Not that I was planning on doing some serious writing, just something to jot things down in. Despite having countless notebooks at home, I’d forgotten to throw one in my bag when we left. (The perils of packing while hungover last minute because of a decision to go for ‘one or two’ drinks the night before)

Luckily for me, we were going on a day trip to Canterbury. There were two things I wanted that I thought I would easily be able to get hold of; a nice notebook, and a copy of Canterbury Tales.

As it turned out, I was wrong.

I didn’t get either in Canterbury, though I did fall in love with the place. It’s a beautiful city with a lot of history behind it, and it was just a shame we couldn’t spend more time there to look into the museums or the cathedral. But I did pick up a couple of books at an awesome charity bookshop, had lunch in a lovely pub, and got really, really freaked out by something I saw there.

By the way, I don’t like dolls. Or dummies. They scare me. And what I saw involved dolls, and it was…strange. Very strange. I won’t go into too much detail here but it has now inspired a short story.

So as soon as we got back to Margate and stopped at Tesco, I grabbed myself a cheap notebook. Nothing fancy, just something I could jot down ideas in.

This notebook is now going to live n whatever bag I am carrying with me at the time. Because whether it’s Margate or just going out for a day trip, ideas can strike anywhere and at any time. It’s one of the first rules as a writer and one I’ve let myself down on, a lot. Always carry a notebook and pen. Always.

Lesson learnt. Because, really, you never know when you’ll see something that creeps you out enough to make you think it might just make a good horror story to creep out other people, too.