Pantsing vs Plotting


Come on, would I even be considered a “real” writing blogger if I didn’t post on this time worn topic?

Don’t answer that.

I’m gonna start by assuming everyone is familiar with the concept and just dive right in.

I have no new ground to tread here really, which might have you wondering why I would even bother wasting my very second blog post on a subject that’s been rehashed >9000 times in every corner of the writing internet.

The fact is after many failed attempts at completing even a first draft of my novel, I still don’t know where I fall on the plotting vs. pantsing spectrum.

Plotting has appeal to me. In my personal life I like to know what’s coming. It helps with my anxiety to have as much time as possible to mentally prepare for impending events.

Yet, pantsing has been my method of habit since I was but a wee fanfiction writer many moons ago. I’m not one of the lucky creators that has ideas spontaneously come to me in the shower or on the commute. I have to be physically in the muck with my work for new threads to form. In this regard, pantsing was tremendously useful in filling out a barebones plot.

However, as I began the transition to original fiction in my early 20s, I found that, without a known given to fall back on, crafting the plot as I went along didn’t pan out nearly as well. I would inevitably reach the Great Soupy Middle with either no ideas at all how to proceed, or more ideas than one could reasonably cram into a cohesive story.

So, to combat this, I swung hard to the opposite side.

My first foray into plotting was the Snowflake Method. Upon initial reading of linked article I was quite excited. The idea of starting a first draft with all the finer details already pinned down was a dream. However, after two or three attempts, I found myself quite bored around the fifth step of the Snowflake (the reasons why could be a whole post in and of itself, so I won’t go into it for now). Awash in creativity from the first few steps had me itching to just get started already, but… well, see above pantsing failures.

There was also a (relatively brief) period that I experimented with rigid story structure and scene anatomy, aggressively outlining each moment of my story with goals, obstacles, disasters, ect. Frankly, it turned out, the scientific approach was a major creative buzzkill.

Which left me with the question that led me to this blog post: what is the method that will work for me?

There’s no big conclusion here. I still don’t know.

With NaNo approaching I have another chance to find out with the added pressure of the challenge to motivate me to push through that Great Soupy Middle.

If whatever I do end up trying actually works, I’ll be sure to let you know.


Who am I: Just Another Struggling Writer

Full disclosure: I’m not published. I’m not famous. I’m not a “professional” writer. I’m not a curator of writing wisdom or advice.  I’ve never successfully completed NaNoWriMo. I’ve never even finished a novel.

I’m just a person who needs to scream into the void about the never ending struggle to become and do all those things.

So. Who am I then, and, perhaps more importantly, what am I doing here?

The first question is easy. I’m Kerry.

As to the second, well, that’s an answer in two parts.

I turned 30 earlier this year. I honestly didn’t think that milestone would phase me at all, but, as I got closer and closer, I started dreading it. The question I continuously found myself asking was, “Did I do enough in my 20s?” Invariably, the answer was always no.

To be sure, I earned a lot of life experience. I moved across the country half a dozen times, got married, had kids, got divorced, joined a professional industry I never would have imagined myself in. Yet sprinkled throughout all these ups and downs, and changes of scenery, and new additions, one ambition remained largely untapped, unfulfilled.

I’ll give you three guesses as to what that ambition is, and the first two don’t count.

So, I made the decision that this would be the year (or decade) that I would finally stop pussyfooting and really commit to actually completing a manuscript.

But, unfortunately, there has already been setbacks. Some health issues cropped up just as I was getting started. That decision I made? That was three months ago. I know: excuses, excuses.

Which brings me to part two: accountability. You see, this isn’t the first time I told myself that I was gonna buckle down and bang out a novel. Throughout the years, I’ve experienced numerous bouts of fervent, wild creativity, followed by a few weeks, even months of equally fervent world building, outlining, and actual writing. The thing is that would inevitably be followed by a collapse of motivation, and, ultimately, abandonment of the project… until the next time. And lather, rinse, repeat.

I desperately want to break this cycle.

One of the ways I hope I can do that is by actively seeking out accountability, something I haven’t really had in attempts past. By making a public commitment and diving into the community of fellow struggling writers I’m hoping some combination of support, accountability, and, of course, enormous creative talent from all sides will be what finally pushes me over the finish line.

And that’s basically it.

I’m Kerry. I write fantasy. I’m gonna take another stab at NaNo. I’m gonna blog and network, and world build and stress about word counts, and do all the things that writers do, because that’s who I want to be. A writer.

Happy struggling!