The Making of A Novel Part 2: To Plot or Pants?

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Before I launch into the whirlwind that is my writing ‘process’ (if you can call it that), I want to do a special shout out to the fantastic Torva at the Fair Oaks Mall Verizon location, who not only found me the perfect phone, but did it with a smile and infinite patience.  I was there for over an hour as she tried to find me every possible discount that a gal can get.  Plus, she’s a ONCER!  Obviously that’s why we got along so well.  #captainswan#ouat.  Because of her awesomeness, I now have a shiny new phone that’s lavender glow is perfectly off set by my brand new cell phone case.  Better yet, I have the perfect excuse to buy a BTS pop socket!  THANK YOU TORVA!!

Alrighty, back to the title of this post: to plot or to pants?  That’s the eternal dilemma of writers everywhere.  But what is plotting and pantsing?  Here is my quick guide to what those two terms mean:

Plotting = you map out everything that’s going to happen in your novel, and pretty much know everything before you begin writing the book.

Pantsing = the opposite of plotting.

Hey, I may not be subtle but I am succinct.

Remember Swag Master?  Well, she is absolutely a plotter.  Takes it to a whole new and impressive level – she doesn’t just do research, she BECOMES the research.  As a result, she is not only well prepared when she begins writing her story, she can also spout off the most random tidbits at the perfect moment (my personal favorite is when she informed me that the sound of the ocean is actually millions of bubbles bursting beneath the surface).  It’s like she’s the embodiment of Jeopardy.

I, on the other hand, am more of a Wheel of Fortune person, squinting at the screen and guessing which letter goes next before I can see the big picture.  Which is why I am, without a doubt, a pantser.  I happily throw myself into a project with absolutely no clue as to what I’m doing or how I’m going to do it.  You are literally flying by the seat of your pants as you write…and I tend to fly so high I’m practically out of the stratosphere.  Plotting, to me, is this uber mysterious and intellectual method that masters of writing have used for centuries.  Take Shakespeare, for instance.  He had to have been a plotter, what with all those hidden nuances and jokes that make up his works.  Shannon Messenger, who we’ve already established is my favorite author, has a process that is so beautifully detailed that it’s basically the book itself.

Being a pantser is not all that bad though.  I mean, yeah, obviously a downside can be stress.  Besides the fact that you may be just as surprised by the plot twist as your future readers, there’s that stress of not knowing where exactly your story is going.  But hey, that can be fun too!  And it gives you a flexibility to your writing that is quite freeing.  Case in point, after grappling with one character revision after revision, I essentially killed them off in the final draft I completed before submitting it to the publisher.  And this character had, up to that point, had a lot of screen time, so to speak.  But I was able to do it without completely derailing the story – muahahaha!!!!

I try not to let the power of being a writer get to my head.  Emphasis on the word try.

But one thing I learned while writing Hart & Seoul is that while jumping in head first might feel exhilarating at the time, when you are writing a novel it is best to do at least some research ahead of time.  In my defense, though, there was no small part of me that was convinced that I actually wouldn’t be able to finish writing a complete story.  When I did finish the first draft – in one month, mind you – I was so shocked that I immediately began working on the second revision…which I also finished in a month…and then I immediately started the third revision…which I also finished in a month…and then my brain fired me and refused to work with me for several months.

During that time I read all the YA books that I could get my hands on, taking to heart the advice one author (and I can’t for the life of me remember which one) who pointed out that reading books is the best writing class you can take.  Of course, I took that one step further by also watching all the K dramas that I could find – all for research of my novel featuring a K-pop star, you understand.  And yes, I’ll be posting my top dramas…once I can tear myself away from watching them.

I think moving forward, I’m going to try to combine the best of both worlds: instead of being a plotter or a pantser, I’ll try to be a planter.  Oh, that does sound good, doesn’t it?  And, really, it doesn’t matter how you tackle your writing, as long as you actually tackle it.  I’m glad that I was totally pantsing during those first drafts of Hart & Seoul, because I proved to myself that I could indeed string together enough letters to make into words to make into a plot to make into a story.  Honestly, I doubt I would have been able to do it if I had plotted it all out – my brain just doesn’t work that way.

And by the way, in a lot of K dramas, the episodes aren’t actually all filmed before the series airs.  The producers often wait to see what the audience’s reactions are to characters, and the writers adjust the storyline accordingly.  Know what that means?  They are TOTAL pantsers!!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to enjoy a Harry Potter day, complete with appropriately themed snacks and comfy Hogwarts gear, because what better way to spend a day off?

 

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