Wednesday, January 12, 2011

There's a plot in my pants

When I was little I wanted to be a scientist.

At some point, reality kicked in and I realised that I hate details and would probably discover the cure for cancer, only to find I hadn't taken note of any of the ingredients.

I did not always want to be a writer. I guess I would have to say that writing kind of followed me around and hit me upside the head until I took notice of it. I mean I was always a reader. I read so much that my primary school teachers would send me on errands to watch me walk and read. And then I started writing poetry when I was bored in classes, which was 97.498% of the time. And then I was introduced to nanowrimo. And lo and behold, the aspiring novelist was born.

Nano introduced me to the online writing community- all of you fabulous semi-imaginary friends- without whom I probably would still be writing "Roses are red" rhymes. And nano also introduced me to the concept of pantsing versus plotting.

That was back in 2008. 2 years and 2 months ago. And while that doesn't seem like that long a time, I feel like I've accrued a lot of knowledge since then. And I can't help but feel a bit misled by the plot vs pants dichotomy. Like its a mysnomer. Or a myth. Or a flat out prevarication. (That's a big word for lie. I was reading Socrates today. In Spanish. lol.)

Because the term 'pants' implies that you know nothing about the novel until pen hits paper (or fingers hit keyboard). And the term 'plot' implies that every twist and turn has been sketched out.

And I kind of wonder if those writers exist.

See, I'm a pantser. I never really have a clue where exactly my plot is going.


There are things I know beforehand. I always know my characters really well. And even though I may not know the end of the story, certain scenes are as vivid as if I lived them myself. And with each novel (I just finished my 3rd first draft) I find that I know more before I start to write.

I've heard the same thing happens to plotters too. Somewhere along the line, a character reveals something that shocks the socks off the author. Or the plot twists in an unforeseen way. Or the arch-nemesis refuses to lay down and die quietly. And most times, it seeems, the book is a better book for it.

I say all that to say this:

Don't feel like you have to belong to one camp or the other. It's not like pregnancy or death. (I mean have you ever met someone who was a little pregnant or a little dead?) You can be mostly pantser and still lay out your characters. Or brainstorm your plot points. Or make a scene list. And if you're mostly plotter, you don't have to follow the Yellow Brick Road all the way home, if suddenly a Scarecrow appears in the field. It's okay to take a detour. Or 6.

Don't forget you've got until 11.59 EST to enter to win Beth Revis' ACROSS THE UNIVERSE.


Alleged Author said...

I mostly fly by the seat of my pants when writing. I start with an outline then end up not follwing most of it!

Colene Murphy said...

Awesome entry! Definitely a pantser myself and wouldn't have it any other way!

Natalie Aguirre said...

I agree you don't have to define yourself either way. I am really organized at my day job as an attorney. I decided to use those skills in my new writing project and research, outline, and do some character development before I start writing. We'll see how it goes.

Joanna St. James said...

am a pantser seriously trying to become a plotter i think its more fun on the other side