Inside a Writer's Mind

Inside a Writer's Mind
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” -- Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Fiction Writing: Plotting Versus Pants-ing

When it comes to writing novels, according to what I’ve read, and from what I've gathered from my own experience, there are essentially two approaches: the first is to plot your novel from the get go, i.e. create a plot overview, indicating the three acts and the chapters and scenes that will compromise them; the second is to write intuitively, by the seat of your pants as it were.

This is not to say that you can’t do both, but I think writers tend to do more of one than the other. I would say I fall into the second camp. Or at least I always had. With the short stories and novels I’ve previously written I usually had no idea where they were going from one writing session to the next. This has not really been a problem, except that I’ve had to make sure I have a pen and note book handy on the bedside table to make the connections between strands of character development and plot, when they come to me at two o’clock in the morning. As a matter of fact this approach worked very well with Leaving Town because of the nature (stream of consciousness) and genre (literary) of the novel.

However, I am now almost thirty thousand words into the first draft of a thriller (my first) and I’m sensing I’m rapidly wearing out the seat of my pants. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure if I don’t do some overview plotting soon my boxers are going to be on public display.

As what I’ve written previously have tended to be more literary stories, I’m now realizing that genre affects the approach you take to the work, or at least determines which approach is more likely to bring results (completion) in a reasonable time frame.

So whether you are a plotter, or a seat-of-your-pants-writer, I wish you luck. And suggest that at some point, particularly if you experiment with other genres, you might need to play for the other team. Even if it’s just off the bench (for the unsure this is football parlance, as in Barcelona FC, for a short period of time.)

Keep writing.

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