I confess to being a pantser at heart. I love the journey of writing as much as the destination. I’m like that in all things. On road trips, I love to come across those little general stores and unexpected fields of flowers. I love the little towns and their white washed houses with bright orange tiger lilies growing beside the mailboxes. However, I don’t always love having to backtrack 20 miles to where I should have made a left turn instead of a right, and especially if I really needed to be at my original destination a hour ago.
Pantsing is a beautiful thing, IF you have the time to spare. If not… consider plotting.
Yes, I see the face you’re making. I made that face, too, the first time my agent wanted to see the synopsis of a book I hadn’t written. What? How is such a task even possible, right? Oh, yeah, it’s called plotting. I’d heard of it, I’d just never done it. I admit I hesitated.
Wouldn’t it take out all the fun of writing? I loved to discover the story even as it flowed from my brain to my fingers across the keys. What about the surprises? Don’t you love it when you, as the author in the midst of telling the story, are surprised by what happens or what a character says?
No…I couldn’t possibly plot it all out ahead of time. Except that I had to. Here’s what I learned. Here’s why I’m still a plotter today.
- Plotting is merely making an outline. Your outline is a map. You don’t have to go that way, but it keeps you from getting lost and losing time. It keeps you focused.
- You can still choose not to write the story in chronological order all the time . Your outline provides “pick and choose” places to jump into the story, which can satisfy the thrill of the unexpected. Bounce around and then come back to fill in the gaps.
- Plotting helps you practice the art of pacing and building the story from the ground up. Check out that Freytag’s pyramid. It works for a reason.
- Your outline is just that–an outline. It contains notes about what you want to accomplish, what a character learns or does, or what conversation you want to explore, but it doesn’t have all the juicy details. There’s still everything to discover and be surprised by as you write the scene.
- Plotting turns your love of daydreaming into a super power. It give you license to daydream, even. You’re working and it’s part of the process. How cool is that?
And truth be told, once you get that first book published, you’re going to have to do this “necessary evil” sooner or later, so embrace it. It’s part of the art of storytelling.
And there will still be tiger lilies along the way. I promise.