THE WITCHING HOUR · Writing

Super-Hero Pantser or Super-Hero Plotter?

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I often see posts and comments on social media about what kind of writer we all are.

Pantsing or plotting? Planning right down to the finest detail or winging it while sipping vodka, crying into your notebook and generally wondering what the Hell you are doing?

I mean, sure, I’m probably the latter most of the time (apart from the vodka bit, as I never drink when I’m writing, although it might explain a lot if I did), but I couldn’t help but be in awe when I saw author, Rachel Scarlet, post a video of an amazing story bible that she creates for all her WIP’s. Each page carefully stored in plastic dividers, from research notes, to character profiles (including how they dress and style of voice) to chapter plans, this was probably the most detailed story planning I had ever seen.

On retweeting her post, with a note of my own to say how story bibles are a beautiful magic I’d like to learn (because the aspiring Marie Condo in me just LOVES how organised it was), I found it so interesting to see how many writers expressed how intimidated this made them feel. There was a general consensus that this kind of super-hero story-planning made other writers think that maybe they were not planning their stories in the correct way and that whatever they were doing was inferior to Rachel’s method.

And then, there was this gem of a comment from K.B Mallion:

‘We are all so wonderfully different.’ 

And that, I think, is the key and one definitely worth remembering.

It’s very easy to feel intimidated by other writers, particularly when we are inundated on social media every day with successes and wins, news of signing with agents and publishing deals, book releases and writers hitting best seller lists. It can even be intimidating for newbie Wattpadders who are just trying to work out how to get a few reads on their stories, when others are like veritable powerhouses with millions of reads and hundreds of thousands of followers. But, while it’s important to remember that the writers achieving those amazing milestones all had to start from the beginning at some point in their career, it’s also vital to remember that one size does not fit all and however one writer works, does not mean that’s the Ten Commandments of Writing we all have to live by.

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The same goes for story planning. Whether you compile story bibles, use apps like OneNote or Scrivener, scribble down random ideas in notebooks or write notes on the back of a till receipt, it’s ALL TOTALLY FINE. Whether you makes notes on each chapter just before you write it, or make no notes at all and just wing it through the whole story, it’s ALL TOTALLY FINE. Whether you plot everything like a military operation, or are a pantser-extraordinaire, it’s ALL TOTALLY FINE.

I completely agree with K.B Mallion’s take on this. I LOVE that we are all different. I love that we all have different tales to tell on how we write. I love seeing the processes that everyone goes through – from what inspires us, to the programs or apps we use (and yes, even the fonts, I’m looking at you COMIC SANS army!), from whether we are Prologue lovers or just like to dive straight in with Chapter One, to how we celebrate writing ‘The End on our completed works.

It’s completely natural to feel a level of intimidation, but as writers, we mustn’t let these fears and feelings weigh us down because ultimately, it’s unhealthy to compare ourselves to others. We can, of course, experiment with ways of working that we think might aid us and use the experience of others to add to our own experiences and progress, but we each must find out what works best for ourselves. Pantser or plotter; it just does NOT matter as long as it works for you.

What kind of super-hero writer are you? Pantser or plotter? Have you learned anything from what another writer does that has helped you with your writing or with how you approach a story? Do you swear by writing guides or avoid them like the plague? Add a comment and share your super-hero writing powers!

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Super-Hero Pantser or Super-Hero Plotter?

  1. Combination of both plotting and pantsing. I’ll use notes and a series of questions to discover who’s in a scene and what they want from each other so I can build on the subtext and the reactions. At some point the characters take over and sometimes you gotta trust them. Other times they go completely off the rails and you end up deleting entire chapters… darn those characters.

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    1. Ah, I like this. I use questions too, but mostly to ensure I iron out any kinks or provide answers to anything I think the reader needs to know. Combine elements of plotting and pantsing can be great if you’re the type of writer who just wants to get on with things and write, while also stopping along the way to find your path again.

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  2. Hi Lindsey,
    So true about each writer being wonderfully different. How boring it would be if we weren’t. But I do agree that the plotting and organizational skills of some writers are so impressive, that it is intimidating. And the ability of others to continuously crank out new stories like there is no tomorrow amazes me. Btw, I am a Panster with some plotting tendencies. 😉

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    1. Hi Joan, thanks for contributing! It really can be so intimidating and I think if I let myself get bogged down with what other writers do and achieve, I’d end up giving up altogether in fear I’d never be good enough. I, too, am a hybrid of pantsing and plotting. I get too excited to write to be able to plan too extensively first and so I tend to plot in blocks of chapters, rather than map out the whole thing. I do feel like I need to do more character work before I start though 🤔

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  3. So interesting. I´m not a writer but if I were I´d definitely be a planner. I´d even make a sport out of planning and plotting. And in the end, I´d probably be more occupied with my military strategies and plannings that I´d never get to writing a book. * sigh * Another reason why I don´t write. * double sigh *
    Winging it with a bottle of vodka? The only good thing I could achieve with that combo would be by emptying the vodka. Lol. *
    To be honest- I can see why authors would be intimidated by other authors. It´s the same thing for book bloggers. Personally, I love my organized chaotic life. But when I see a book blogger pridefully showing off their beautiful blog work table with the enormous bookshelves in the background I take a long look at my shelves and see no work desk near by because I don´t have one… I immediately think about packing my bags and leaving the country. Totally unreasonable, I know. But the feeling pops up. Just as it does with writers when they see how other writers approach their writing. K.B Mallion´s quote is picture perfect. And writers along with bloggers should take her quote to heart.
    Besides- Isn´t it wonderful to see that we´re all just humans and that we, too, fail in some areas? It´s wonderful learning about other´s secrets and quirks. I love this post. ❤ Well done. 🙂

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    1. I think that no matter what field you work in, there’s always going to be an element of feeling inferior to others in that field. There’s always someone who you think can do it better. And we never believe others might fail or have failed as we do. It’s important to remember K. B Mallion’s words – we are all so wonderfully different ❤️

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