Plotting vs. Pantsing
A funny thing happened on the way to The End…
As a writer, I’m definitely a ‘pantser’ (as in, I write by the seat of my pants). Don’t get me wrong, I know how my story starts and how it ends, but I’ve always thought that the fun and creativity of writing was in getting from point A to point B. It’s an adventure.
But for my last book, I was paralyzed by writer’s block to such a horrific extent that I *swore* I would plot out my next story down to the minutest detail. After all, one of my critique partners insists “there is no such thing as writer’s block, there’s just bad planning.” I’m not entirely convinced I believe that, but of one thing I was sure: I never again wanted to stare at a computer screen with one eye while staring down a publisher’s deadline with the other. That was an awful time.
So imagine my surprise two weeks ago when I started my newest erotic romance. I happily shut myself up in my home office with a hot cup of tea, fired up my computer, and pulled out my extensive plot outline.
The first line came easily enough: “There was a dead body in my pool.”
After that… nothing. It didn’t seem to matter that I had the entire story sketched out on six pages sitting next to my keyboard. It didn’t matter that I knew my character’s names, their histories, their hometowns, their favorite color socks. In an insane trick of the Muse, the fact that I had already written out an abbreviated story of my story meant I couldn’t write my story!
I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
I settled for a Captain Morgan Spiced Rum and tonic with lime instead. (Actually, two of them.)
Once I relaxed, I began to feel better about my book. I knew how it started and how it was supposed to end, so I threw away the outline on those six sheets of paper and just let the words flow from my fingers. The spunky heroine. The uptight detective hero. The dead body that throws them together.
I’m happy to say that the story (so far) has elements of humor, intrigue, suspense, plot twists and sexual tension. LOTS of sexual tension. Oh, who am I kidding? I write erotic romance. There’s a lot of actual sex in this story. (The result of all that sexual tension.)
But at least there’s a story. I’m writing pages. Day after day, the words are coming. Maybe my Muse was trying to tell me that writing is a leap of faith. It’s hard work, but if you show up for it every day, your Muse will, too. I don’t need an outline, I just need confidence.
At least that’s what I’m telling myself until the next time writer’s block strikes.
What about you? Are you a plotter or a pantser, and why? I’d love to hear about your process.