This is a topic that comes up among writers all of the time. We’re always curious how other writers go about preparing to begin their stories. How many times have we been asked, “Are you a pantser or a plotter?” Really, it’s a continuum from one extreme to another, from putting down every last bit of the story before you begin to developing a character and a conflict and jumping right in. Most of us, I would guess, fall somewhere inbetween. Myself, I’m a plotter. I lay out all of the major action in the story from start to end, indicating where character development things are to occur and so on. I usually know all of the chapters and how they will play out before I put word one on the page. Pantsers won’t do this. Ever.
They may try, because a pantser looks at the plotter and thinks, “God, it would be so nice to have things all situated so I didn’t get stuck or run into these stupid deadends.” As a plotter, I look at the pantser with envy because they can just sit down and start writing with what amounts to very little prep work in comparison. The grass is always greener. I have tried in the past and failed. What I’d really like to do is nudge myself a little bit in the pantser direction. It just never really seems to work out that way. Why is it so hard? I don’t believe it is merely a matter of being overly used to one method or another. It’s a mindset, a way of thinking, and the manner in which the writer’s creativity works that makes one method more conducive than another.
What it all comes down to in the end, and perhaps I am over-generalising just a bit to make my point here, is this. For the pantser, the creative joy is seeing the story unfold as they write. To plot it out ahead of time is to basically see the story in it’s entirety and thus it loses it’s appeal. The story is done and there, even if it isn’t fleshed out. The creative energy dissipates. For myself, plotter that I am, my energy drains the more I DON’T know where I’m going. I get the story worked out in it’s basic framework, see where it’s going to go, what it’s going to do, and that gets my creative energy flowing. Look what I’m going to make! It’s going to be so cool to see this come to life on the page. It’s a fundamental difference in approach and way of thinking.
So, pantsers, don’t stress over not wanting or being able to plot things out. You plotters, take heart in your own way. They both work. The key is to use whatever way keeps and sparks that creative energy and allows you to finish that damn book! Now, get writing.