Going with the Flow (Ye ‘Ole Plotter v. Pantser Discussion)

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Admission Time: for those who haven’t already figured it out, I fall firmly on the “plotter” side of the plotter-pantser scale. I usually take a fair amount of time letting stories percolate in my head before I start writing. First I think of what the characters look like and try to find images to match them, then I create character sheets, square up my plot, and write down a general timeline of events. But every once in a while I’ll get a vague idea in my head, and I’ll just pick up my computer and start writing. I never know if those stories will amount to anything, but they sure are fun to write. (And yeah, a little stressful too; what if the story peters out and I’ve spent all this time on it for nothing?)

It’s my firm belief that any time you are feeling tired of what you’re working on, worn out, or you’ve just lost the feeling of excitement that writing can generate, it’s probably a great time to open up a blank document and just start writing. Something about doing that frees the creative flow of energy.

The series I’m currently working on, The Fallen Warriors (which at this time is planned to be a self-pubbing project) came to me by the creative process I note above. I had just finished Book 2 in my Demons of Infernum series and wanted a break before starting the third book. There’s an urban fantasy I’ve got plans for but it’s not yet ready to be written (see above note re: percolation), and my hubby had been bugging me to self-pub something. So I sat down in front of the computer and wrote the first thing that came to mind. The story started out with a dystopian feel, but I quickly realized it was an alternate world, one where angels are beings from another dimension who have been revealed to humans when the ‘veil’ separating their worlds collapses. The angels quickly take rule over the humans, who’ve been promised peace and protection in return for their fealty. Little do they know the angels have far more sinister plans in place for them(cue maniacal cackling). But the main point here is none of this would’ve happened if I hadn’t gone with the flow and let the creative process take me where it wanted to.

So if you’re not feeling the magic on something you’re writing (especially if you’re a plotter), why not put that aside and try something else? Write without any specific project in mind. Who knows what you might find?

I’m curious to know if any of you have uncovered a fabulous story by simply sitting down and writing? (And I’m sure many of you majorly talented peeps have. Smile)



14 thoughts on “Going with the Flow (Ye ‘Ole Plotter v. Pantser Discussion)

    Joyce Palmer said:
    March 21, 2011 at 8:12 am

    I’ve become a plotter too. But, for some reason it’s difficult for me to start my plotting before I write my opening scene. I sit down and write the first scene from the new idea in my head. Then, I plot, and come back to tweak my first scene. So, I guess you could say all my plotting starts with a round of pants… Enjoyed your post.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      March 21, 2011 at 8:24 am

      Actually that’s a good point, Joyce. After I wrote the first chapter of the first book in my Fallen series, I stepped away to do some plotting. But that’s because I learned the hard way I can’t pants it all the way. I tried with one of my first books and the result was horrific: a good idea that went nowhere. But that was a good three-month lesson to learn.

    Elizabeth Frost said:
    March 21, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Actaully I’m hoping the opposite happens as I am trying my hand at plottig for a change. The last book has taken far too many full drafts to get into reasonable shape. So finger crossed that plotting will work out better.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      March 21, 2011 at 9:38 am

      Sounds like the second manuscript I wrote, which I eventually abandoned. Too many mistakes to fix. 😦

    Jean Hart Stewart said:
    March 21, 2011 at 10:51 am

    I need to have the beginning and the end firmly in my head before I start. Then comes the hard part, the soggy middle. Sometimes that gives me fits. Can’t imagine writing without an idea in your head…Jean

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      March 21, 2011 at 11:04 am

      I know, Jean! It’s scary and exciting at the same time.

    J. Paulette said:
    March 21, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I’m a panster trying to reform my wicked ways and become a plotter. My first, second, and third books were done by panstering and took a while to finish. This next book I’ve plotted, and its going much quicker & easier. I check my outline type of thing and see where I need to be going. Doing so takes some of the pressure off.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      March 21, 2011 at 12:07 pm

      I wonder, Paulette, do you feel the “magic” is gone by having your story plotted out?

    Steven Konkoly said:
    March 21, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    I started my first novel plotting obsessively, until my wife finally asked me when I might start actually writing the story. I realized I had filled at least one notebook with timelines, character sheets, notes, plot ideas, research…and more timelines. For my first writing venture, I’m glad I took the time. Although the ending changed, which claimed many mid-story plot devices as casualties, I benefited from a solid starting point and a structured concept of where I wanted to take the story. A hijacking occurred midway through, but I didn’t mind…I actually expected it. I couldn’t imagine taking a project from start to finish on a strict plot line.

    That being said, the novel itself formed from an idea that kept generating steam…while I was laboring to piece together the novel I thought I wanted to write. And I emphasize laboring! Miserable. So, I am a true believer in taking a short mental vacation to explore an idea that keeps lingering on the surface. Of course,I wouldn’t interrupt a good flow because I suddenly had a great idea…that’s what a writer’s notebook is for.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      March 21, 2011 at 2:48 pm

      Good point, Steve. If your story is moving along and you don’t have any blockage, what you shouldn’t do is just stop when a “great” idea comes along. I get those all the time and I write them down, as you suggest. Stopping to follow the next greater thing (and it always seems greater when you’re not working on it yet) is an easy way to ensure you’ll never finish anything.

    Kathy Crouch said:
    March 21, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    I wrote a couple of things just rambling along no ryhme no reason and sure enough got to where it literally went on and on, I wound up with an episodic story lol.
    My current project started with an idea and a summary of the idea. I’ve been working on it for what seems like forever. But I do find just as you suggested if I get bogged down I open up and write about something different. I may revise and rewrite this story when I finish it but I want to hold off and type THE END before I delve too far into that. IF I start revising and fixing now it will never be finished. I haven’t quite gotten down to the character sheets and things I usually know some things about them and let the rest happen as it goes. I’m learning though. Hopefully, one day I will get better lol. It seems like if you plot you have more information but sometimes I am overwhelmed by too much info.

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      March 21, 2011 at 7:37 pm

      It would be easier if you could find a perfect way to write a story and then keep doing it, but as far as I’ve seen that’s not possible. My methods change with every single story. Different stories demand different things. *Sigh.* I guess that’s what makes writing an art and not a science. 🙂

    Ciara Knight said:
    March 21, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    I did this the other day. Stayed in the same world as my current WIP, but wrote a novella in 1st person present tense of a secondary character. It is probably one of the best things I’ve ever written. Crit partners agree. Sometimes things just work. :)Now I’m second guess the series. LOL

      Rosalie Lario responded:
      March 21, 2011 at 10:00 pm

      Ooh, that sounds awesome, Ciara! Someone just suggested I make a novella out of a secondary character in one of my books. I hadn’t even considered it but now I’m finding myself loving the idea. 🙂

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