Plotter, pantster, or something else?

Plotter (2)

 

If you are a serious writer, which I must be as I bought a pack of coloured biros, and serious writers need them, you will have worked out whether you are a plotter or a pantster.

Actually, you might not have worked it out, but you surely have come across those terms by now. Plotters plot, and pantsters pant. Well no, pantsters just have a germ of an idea, some great characters and then they see what happens when they let them loose.

Plotters spend ages and ages and ages buying lots of pretty stationary, (remember the coloured biros), and little notecards or post-its, or use Scrivener, or print out a beat sheet that works for genre. They spend hours and hours working through their plot, they know their characters inside out, they know what their inciting moment is going to be, they know their lowest point, they know how they are getting from A to B, and then to C, D, E, etc

Pantsters don’t need to do any of that, as long as they know their characters inside out, and the ‘what’ part of their story. Their one line sentence – its about a girl who went in search of her birth mother. Or, its about a man who wanted revenge on an ex-girlfriend. Something. They need to know what their book is about, the setting, the start and the moment it is all going to kick off. Then they can let their characters lead them on the trip of a lifetime.

So long as you know which type of writer you are, all is well with the world. Plotters have confidence in their well thought out plot, and presumably they have read numerous self-help writing books on plotting and beats and the three Act story/film/play.

My favourite book on plotting has to be Save The Cat by Blake Snyder. Once read, never forgotten.

Pantsters have confidence in their ability to let their characters lead them. If the plot gets stuck, don’t panic, ask a few ‘what if’ questions, see what gets your creative juices going, and then set off again.

dandelion-761759_1280

Neither way is perfect, both ways you still have to edit, and as we all know a first draft is still just a first draft. Just get it done.

And then there’s me. Neither one nor the other.

I must be that breed betwixt and between a plotter and a pantster; something organic. I shall call myself a PLANSTER.  Do you like that? Organic, plants?

I get these great ideas for a story, or maybe just a scene arrives in my head, probably sparked off by something I’ve seen, or read about and I have to get it down.

Which is a bit of a pantster I suppose.

But then I do like to try plotting out where I think I’m going. I like coloured biros, I like coordinated note cards and post-it notes, I like the cork board thingy on Scrivener and I’ve read Save The Cat.

coffee-667052_1280

I like to take my idea. Find my characters. Get a notebook and start scrawling everything down, and then I start to plot. Generally with physical bits of paper and card, strewn all over the table. Actually no, laid out in lines across the table, with Act 1, on the first card. Then I move along until I get to the end of the row and I label it ‘inciting moment’. Generally I know what is happening here. The rest of the row is a blank.

Second row is the same. Act 2, all the way across to the last card which is the turning point. Generally I have this scene in my head, and I write it down.The rest of the row might have a few notes, but generally blank.

Third row, exactly the same, blank, blank, blankety blank, all the way across to the last card which is the lowest point. I definitely know what happens here, the scene has rolled out in my brain so many times I could get an Oscar for it.

Last row, I tend to know a lot of what is happening, mostly. I know the last scene, (the opposite of the first scene to keep it balanced), I’ve thought of plenty of plot twists and loose ends and all sorts of things that will have to go into this bit.

But here’s the thing. There’s an awful lot of blanks in this book when I am plotting. A lot.

So I have plotted the basic framework. I know what the book is about. I know my characters, I have  interviewed them, made up a mood board, collected photographs etc for inspiration. I have my setting, and I have my major scenes written, (in my head).  But I just haven’t got completely from A to b to C etc. More like jumping on the tube and going straight to the last station.

I am a PLANSTER.

My story grows in my head as I think about it. Over the weeks and months it takes to write the book, scenes pop up in my brain, and I write them down. I do not write in a linear fashion, in a straight line. I go where I am led. When I get inspired I write it down quick.  It grows organically.

Ideas come to me the more time I spend on the project, and as I get more and more scenes written, more and more naturally lead to the next part. But I have no problem writing the story backwards, forwards, missing bits out and coming back. It works for me.

Its like someone throws a bit more Baby Bio, or organic compost on this tiny little plant, and then it just mushrooms, growing roots, branches, flowers and fruit as it develops.

The plant supports are there, its firm structure is there, it just grows to fill its space.

I know the ‘what’ of the book. But the little bits will arrive, bit by bit.

So, what sort of writer are you?

Plotter, a pantster or … an organic, let it grow as you go, plantser?

 

Advertisements

Book Review – Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

 

Big Magic - Elizabeth Gilbert

You have to read this book.

If you write fiction, if you paint, if you draw, if you craft, if you create in any shape or form, then you need to read this book.

But mainly if you put yourself ‘out there’ in a creative way AND you are filled with self doubt and negative thoughts then you need to read this book.

There are so many ideas and concepts in this book, that even if some of her more, shall we say, ‘unconventional’ ideas make you want to sit in the corner and squirm, you will still find something in here that gives you the confidence and the freedom to get out there and create stuff.

As a writer, one of her concepts that I find so utterly fantastic is that of the ‘idea’.

Ideas have their own life and are floating, or whizzing around looking for somewhere to land. If we are open to it it stays; if we are too busy it moves on and may find someone else who is open and ready for it.

You know what it feels like, when suddenly, out of the blue this amazing, fantastic idea for a story arrives in your head, and it is so wonderful and marvellous that you simply must die if you don’t write it down. Except of course you were asleep, or were in the supermarket doing the grocery shop, or on the M25 stuck in the most horrendous traffic jam and you have 3 kids and 2 dogs who are all starving in the back and then your boss phones, and by the time you get home the idea has suddenly, unexplainedly vanished because you couldn’t/didn’t listen/write it down?

Sounds familiar?

Well, so Elizabeth says, maybe it will come back round again, or maybe it will carry on, whizzing through the world until it finds the right person who is able to give birth to it. Sometimes even, it may land on a couple of people at the same time.

Interesting concept.

You may think its a complete load of nonsense, or you might be jumping up and down right now thinking OMG! I totally understand. Some of the concepts might be, well, unusual.

Except…except…maybe not.

There are so many things she talks about that make complete sense. We are creative people. We have always been creative people, but perhaps in the last few hundred or so years we have forgotten that its ok to be creative for the sake of it.

We are so caught up now, with the idea of being perfect, or good enough etc, so much of social media is a constant drain on our positive image, and we spend a lot of our time looking for instant gratification that we have become disjointed from the actual joy of creating for the sake of creating. For to be creative, we have to have a certain amount of confidence in ourselves as unique individuals, and that its ok to be different.

 

 

I can’t say everyone will like the book, but I do challenge you to read it and NOT find a single thing that resonates with you.

Create. Write. Craft. Make. Bake. Enjoy it.

There is so much more to the book than this, just go and read it.