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.