|Photo credit: Incessant Flux on Flickr|
It wasn't intentional, but I have a feeling my subconscious avoidance of the topic has to do with the fact that I don't have one set way to plot. I've done everything from meticulously plotting with flashcards, to pantsing the entire novel with only a vague idea of where it was going, to hybrid techniques that fall somewhere in the middle.
As it happens (and as is the case with most writing things), there isn't one set way to plot that is better than the others— nor do I believe there is a "right" answer as to whether it's better to plot a novel or just go with the flow and pants the entire thing.
There are, however, pros and cons to both pantsing and plotting up for discussion right here.
For the organized writer: Plotting
It goes without saying that plotting a novel before you write it certainly has its merits. Having a destination before you start the journey certainly saves you a lot of headaches while you're in the midst of writing, and can help you avoid the dreaded writer's block, which often comes from not knowing where the plot leads next.
Many published writers swear by meticulous plotting: J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a twelve-volume History of Middle Earth while writing The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and it's pretty common knowledge that J.K. Rowling most definitely worked out the complicated plot of Harry Potter in advance.
Having a plot laid out early on can help ensure that your story is well-structured right from the beginning, which in turn saves a lot of time fixing gaping plot holes and unnecessary tangents while revising later.
Some writers, however, find that knowing all the details before the story begins sometimes stifles their characters— they find they end up writing to the formula rather than letting the writing evolve naturally, which then leads to...
Pantsing: for the adventurous writer
Pantsing a novel is a more light-hearted approach to its left-brained relative. It usually begins with a spark of an idea— an inciting incident that catapults the story forward, and the writer discovers the plot along the way with the characters. Pantsers enjoy the thrill of discovery while writing— every day is a new adventure, every writing session delving them deeper into the story that unfolds with every word.
While plotters focus on structure and planning, pantsers focus on discovery and the natural flow of events.
Sounds wonderful, right? Well, there is a downside.
As these writers often have little idea as to where the story is going, pantsing a novel can lead to more frequent writer's block and many more unnecessary tangents and ramblings as the writer tries to figure out what to do next. The story doesn't always have the strongest structure, especially in the first draft, so more time needs to be dedicated to fixing those plot holes and tying things together while revising.
As you can see, there are pros and cons to each method, and I highly recommend experimenting with both throughout your career as a writer.
What type of writer are you? Do you prefer pantsing, plotting or something in between? Why?