Are you a plotter (someone who outlines) or a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of her pants)? Have you ever been asked that question? Was it simple for you to answer? I’d thought so until recently.
Because I didn’t just sit down and write whatever came to mind, I figured I wasn’t a pantser. Not that being a pantser is a bad thing, but it’s not who I thought I was as a writer. I even took the time to write up my characters’ GMCS (goals, motivations, conflicts), create a profile of each character, and outline what would happen from point A to point Z in the plot. The problem was that I didn’t have a detailed outline, so I was actually still pantsing my way around the story or rather I was plontsing—something between plotting and pantsing.
As a result, I’ve had to revise this manuscript A LOT. We all expect revisions. That’s not so unusual. But when you think you’ve plotted out the story, you kind of figure most of the plot will be where it should be. True, except when you’re not actually plotting—or not deep enough anyway.
This isn’t the end of the world. An author can always go back and make changes or add what’s missing. However, that can be easier said than done. Rewriting sections of the book might mean earlier or later chapters will no longer work, and suddenly, you have to rewrite more of the book than you anticipated.
Is that a bad thing? Well, it might seem like it at first. Crushing, actually. But try to think of it as a great learning experience. In my case, I learned that my plotting method didn’t dig deep enough into the characters or the plot, and because I write complicated romantic suspense plots with mystery elements, I need to know where to put early hints and clues in the story. I need to ensure red herrings are in place and believable. And I need to make sure that by the end of the book, the reader can have an ah-ha moment and realize she knew who the killer was all along—or she could have had she paid close enough attention. Hey, I’m not going to make it too easy for you.
Again, these are elements that can be added later, but the more I can get down in the first draft, the less revision work I’ll have once I’m done. So, in realizing that my potting method wasn’t strong enough, I’ve taken a class on how to plot, and now, I have the tools I need to be able to complete a novel (all polished and pretty) in less time, because I’ll have less revisions.
Could I have continued plontsing successfully? Sure. But why would I want all those extra revisions?
Are you a plotter, pantser, or something in between?