Plotting vs. Pantsing

Remember that quick 3,000 word short story I wrote in a weekend just for fun? Somehow it’s turned into 22,000 words and I’m still going. I’m not sure how that happened, but it’s exciting and I don’t want to stop. I missed that feeling – that feeling where I’m discontent when I’m not writing. Where I want to jot down every thought I have about the book. Where I don’t want to stop thinking about the book. I’m a bit obsessed.

The thing is, I’m going along without any plan, any bigger picture. And it’s scary in that oh wow I just graduated from college and have no clue what to do next way, but also in that the possibilities are ENDLESS way. And I love it! And while, of course, I’m worried I’ll end up with 50,000 words of slush, I also don’t care. Because I’m having fun, and that, obviously, is worth it.

In the writing world, there’s the common debate of what’s better – plotting a book before writing, or going along by the seat of your pants (what I like to call “pantsing”). When I wrote TNWSY, I plotted a lot. That’s mostly because the idea had been in my mind for years, so I already had a pretty good idea of where it would start and end. The book takes place in a limited time span, so everything had to be very exact. I knew where my characters would be at all times, I knew what would happen, I knew where they would end up. Sure, I made up the dialogue and many diversions along the way, and of course I had to change the written outline at times, but overall it was very charted. And it worked really well.

For this book I’m doing the complete opposite. I know what’s going to happen to the characters, of course, but I have no clue what’s going to happen along the way. Sure, I have some scenes I just can’t wait to write because I imagine them before falling asleep, but on the whole I’m making it up as I go along. And it’s kind of exciting.

In the area of plotting vs. pantsing, I think it depends on the writer, and it depends on the book. You can’t just go pants The Hunger Games or Harry Potter. There was a definite layout, a definite guide. But in my YA contemporary romances? Sure, I can have a bit of fun. See where the characters want to go without forcing them.

As of right now, I’m not sure which I like best, but I’m having fun experimenting with both.

What about you?  Which do you prefer?

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4 thoughts on “Plotting vs. Pantsing

  1. travismamone83 says:

    Somewhere in between. I have a general idea of what I want to say, and then just try to type whatever pops into my head. Unfortunately, most of the time my mind isn’t thinking about what I want to write!

  2. hannahkarena says:

    I guess I do some of both. I kind of plot in that I have those scenes that I know I want to happen–those ones like your where I think about them, getting excited to finally be able to write them–so I’ll do a rough outline (really rough, like only has four or five bullet points in it) and then “pants” and do whatever I want in the manuscript until I get stuck and then I look at the outline and write some more until I get to that next bullet point. It’s a little bit like connect-the-dots for me, with a lot of sight-seeing tours in-between.

  3. Mike E. Miller says:

    I try to think anywhere between two and five chapters ahead. I’ll often outline the chapters before I write them (I find there’s a lot less staring at the screen), but I only put four, five, or six items under each chapter. So, I guess I don’t know what you’d call that. Plotsing? Planting?

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