There’s an old question in the writing community that I think most of us have been asked at least once. Plotter or Pantser? Do you already know your story when you start writing, or do you write without a plan and let the story flow naturally and see where it goes?
Pantsers do have more fun. I was a pantser originally and there’s a thrill and joy in just barreling through a story and seeing where it goes. You have a lot more opportunity to be surprised and invested in the story because you are seeing it unfold as you write. Every twist is interesting and, sure, the editing in the end is a bit crazy, but the ride is worth it.
Or it used to be. I am a plotter now. The trouble I kept finding when I was pantsing was that I had a lot of stories that never got done. I kept getting stuck and I didn’t know what I was going to do next, so I would go to another project. I had every intent of coming back, really, but I just never did. Worse, I’d come back to it later and realize how little sense previous scenes made in the context of newer ones and the work required to bring it all into something cohesive was too daunting for me to want to go back to it.
I love having a plot to work with and knowing where my stories are going. If I know what’s going on, then I never have to stop to consider what’s come before and figure out how the next sequence of events actually fits in. The plotting process, for me, is where I get the first run of the story done. It’s where I get the story figured out before the characters come to life. It’s when I get to barrel through the story and see where it goes.
Essentially, the plotting stage is pantsing for me.
I get to see where the story goes and learn about the characters as I see what their actions are. If something doesn’t make sense, I can very easily go back and see what works and what doesn’t. Because I haven’t written it proper yet, I can change the notes and it isn’t too daunting. And while I’m going, I can throw in all the specifics of a scene to include when I get around to writing it, as well as create those scenes that I know I’ll be really excited about getting to.
I also finish a lot more now that I’ve started plotting. The first draft now feels a lot more structured and I know when it’s going to end. I don’t always know how, but if I ever get lost, I have something to fall back on, and that has made all the difference. Well, for me at least.