Plotting by the Seat of My Pants
"Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?"
I've asked and been asked this question a million times. For most of my writing life I have proudly exclaimed "Pantser!", or better yet, "Discovery Writer!" (a term I learned from watching the Brandon Sanderson lecture series - very dignified). There was something daring about approaching a novel with wild abandon, letting the characters surprise and guide me. I have always insisted that the story needs to write itself, that I cannot control it.
Utter crap. (This is me talking to myself. If you are a Pantser and it works for you... go for it, you rock star!!)
My mind is where these people live. My mind is their birthplace. I have complete control of everything, but the truth is I just didn't know how to tap into it all. If I'm honest, I still don't. Plotting requires that I have a vision for the overall arc of the story and the hard truth is, I usually don't. This may be why it took me about ten years to actually, fully, for real, complete The Gate. I have a total of ten story "starts" and I have no clue how they end. None whatsoever. This is where I am thinking plotting and outlining would serve me well.
The Gate was my training ground. Every chapter I revisited, I learned something new. I developed the critical skill of understanding the beats of a story. I read all the books about it, but I had to do it, and do it the hard way, to learn. My poor MC, Amarynn! She suffered so much during the process. That girl had to go from badass warrior who NEVER HAD A FIGHT (except for the opening scene...umm....whaaat?) to actually having a chance to show her skills! I also lost the interesting story of Plinus to my mad dash to finish the book. But by going back and laying out the plot, I was able to go back and leave some tantalizing clues that make the reader ask good questions and leave them wanting to know more. I even planted a couple of Easter Eggs that come to fruition in books 2 and 3!
Now, as I begin a new journey writing my science fiction novel Fall Below, I am making myself do the work. I am plotting and outlining and learning how it works for me. And, to my surprise, I am discovering just as much as I did when I flew by the seat of my pants. Only now, I can explore those discoveries without having to rewrite chapter after chapter.
This plotting journey is hard, but I intend to stick with it. I'll keep you posted!
Let me know how you write (and the hurdles you face) in the comments!