Writing a Novel: Can a plotter pants?

plotter vs panterYou know how it is — when you have a deadline that involves a check, that’s when another MOST EXCELLENT idea reaers its head and you simply have got to start writing it.  The problem is that I need to research my next piece of nonfiction for Red Line.  Chapter 1 and the outline are due a week from today.  I convinced myself that I could work on my new idea too but I would have to start writing it NOW.  That meant that I’d have to start writing without an outline because I just didn’t have time to cook one up. This plotter would have to pants.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the terms, a plotter plots out a novel before starting to write. It doesn’t have to be a detailed outline, but there is a plan of some kind.  A pantser, on the other hand, writes by the seat of her pants.  She doesn’t have an outline.  She just starts writing.  I convinced myself that this was the way to go if I was going to have a chance to write on my new idea and meet the Red Line deadline.

I convinced myself I didn’t have time to plot.  Instead, I dug out the first Boxcar Children book — research — and read chapter 1.  With that bit of inspiration, I sat down to write.  Five days later, I was 4 chapters and 2,275 words into the manuscript.  That’s good, yes?

Well, yes and no.  The problem was that the book was already drifting.  I know that I need a plot and a subplot and I had the plot and the subplot came to me as I drafted Chapter 3.  This meant that I would have to work some clues into Chapters 1 and 2.  The other problem is that without a plan my characters were already doing their own thing.  Left to their own devices, they were skewing too old.  To solve this, I’d have to go back and completely change a character I introduced in Chapter 2.

Yes, I could make myself keep plowing forward but . . . I won’t.  At this point, my chapter book/lower middle grade is reading more like a young adult.  I don’t mean that in terms of the plot itself but in the behavior of some of the characters.  And I have to change the ship.  I mean completely change the ship.

Can I say it?  This plotter does not like pantsing.

The good news is that I’m glad I just jumped in and started to write.  Now I have a much better feel for my story world and my characters.  And with that knowledge, I am going to create a bare bones outline and then start my new official draft.  The one with the age appropriate characters, a plot and subplot and solid setting.

I think it is fair to say that this plotter is not a pantser.  Nope.  This plotter is a plotter.



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