This question comes up frequently on writers’ forums and most explore the pros and cons of both approaches. For those of you not familiar with the terms, basically plotters are those who map out their stories in advance, pansters begin with a kernel of an idea and fly by the seat of their pants, letting the story go where it may.
I’m not sure I fall neatly into either category and I suspect many writers feel the same. In last week’s post, I shared how the arcs of two stories “showed up”. I get a general sense of where the story is going far in advance. This usually consists of a single page of point form notes and random thoughts, although one of the plots last week basically fell on the page in the form of a full synopsis.
So, I do begin with the end in mind. That makes me a plotter. But, when I sit in front of the computer, the journey from point A to Z is not mapped. I let my fingers, my mind, my heart dictate the direction. When I began working on my first novel, Raven’s Path, my characters arrived at Fort Oswego. In my plotter’s mind, their visit was to be a few pages long. Well, weeks and many chapters later, they remained at Oswego. So much happened there that exposed deepening layers of my characters. I would have lost out on those revelations had I forced myself to adhere to my timeline. So, in that, I am a panster.
I’m not sure I could ever truly be a full panster—I am a bit of a control freak and would find that a little too intimidating. Nor could I ever be strictly a plotter. I like surprises. It is exciting to veer from the plotter’s path and discover what is around the next corner or hidden beneath the imagination’s foliage.
Perhaps we can coin a new phrase for those of us who cannot commit to one approach or the other. A plotster? Planster? Who’s with me here? J