Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Plotter or Pantser?

What I'm reading: Killing Floor, by Lee Child

What I'm writing: Chapter 9

On my blog route this morning, one friend posed a familiar question: Are you a plotter or a pantser? I tried to answer within the confines of a blog comment, but it got me thinking.

I had hit a writing slump not long ago. I attributed a lot of it to the fact that my own life was going through some changes as I phased out my part-time day job. Yes, tying up all the loose ends was time consuming. But the real slowdown in writing, I think, was because I really didn't understand the scene I was writing. This was the first face to face confrontational meet between hero and heroine. I hadn't plotted it out well, so the writing was laborious. My sketchy "they meet and are stuck with each other" had to be fleshed out, and I had to do it in such a way that it made sense. Almost a week was spent on that chapter. I addressed some of this in my post last Wednesday.

Can I plot a 100,000 word novel in advance? No. I think what Suzanne Brockmann has said about her writing process, how she has character arcs for her huge cast of characters planned out over seven books at a time. I'm sure she would have known what kind of a phone her hero had and why before she started the book. I rarely know what's going to happen in the next chapter.

But, as I've discovered, until I do, meeting a word count goal becomes a chore instead of a joy. Writing is work, however, and it's hard work. You can't not show up simply because you don't feel inspired. If the muse isn't there, you have to go out and find her and chain her to her chair.

Overall, I guess I'm a pantser who plots in short spurts.


Carol Ann said...

Terry, I can relate to this post. I'm a pantster, too, but I do have to look at what I'm trying to accomplish in the current chapter I'm working on. I do some very light outline structure. Maybe we could come up with a new name for people like us...hmmm...perhaps, we could be plotpants. LOL!

Carol Ann Erhardt

Terry Odell said...

Good new term, Carol Ann. Or what about "Plantster" -- because I think I plan more than plot.