Plotter or Pantser? Why? by J Vincent

Plotting a story, that is outlining it, is one way for a writer to get the tale they want to tell to take shape.  This involves imaging the action from the beginning to end and in some detail.  Not only are chapters sketched out chapter by chapter but at times scene by scene. 

A Pantser, as in “by the seat of your pants,” envisions the whole story in general, or at least the beginning and the end but not very many details. In this method the writer lets the characters tell the story their way with their details.

Both methods work albeit, better for some writers than others.  This week I read an article in which a scientist studied the connections of cells in the brain.  He stated that these connections are the identity of the person.  I believe how your brain is wired will determine how you end up writing.

When I first started writing I outlined in detail.  Chapter and verse, so to speak.  Outline before me, I would start typing (yes, typing not keying) my story.  It would usually go fine for a chapter or two and then one of the major characters would throw a spanner in the works.  (I HAVE been watching and reading too much British writing!) The spanner, that is wrench, became apparent to me when I could not get the story to go forward no matter how hard I tried.  At that point I usually rethought and reworked my outline and then continued until another spanner came along.

This became very tiresome.  I was losing writing time redoing the book outline.  So I became a pantser.  If the characters wanted to tell the story, fine.  I’d envision the beginning, perhaps a few scenes along the way, and that the hero would get the heroine or visa versa at the end.  This done I would write.  I remember The Curious Rogue especially as it wrote itself in six weeks. I was frantically typing away that last week because I was more than curious to learn the ending.  I knew the hero would get the heroine but not how. I also decided I was mildly insane.  How on earth could characters I created with a story I saw in my mind write their own story?  This was before WARA, before I knew any other writers.  You can’t know how relieved I was to learn this was not an isolated event but something that happened with other writers also.  It has happened to me several times.  I wrote the last half of Honour’s Redemption in two weeks.  If something works I tend to stay with it.

So which am I—plotter or pantser?  I’m my own version of a combination of both.  Partially by nature and partially by chance.  It is a lot like asking “Why am I a writer?”  I can give some reasonable explanations for why I became a writer but in the end I think it has more to do with how my brain is wired than anything.  Heredity and environment—that’s why I write the way I do.  How about you?