1. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Grokking pantsers

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Justin Rocket 2, Oct 24, 2015.

    A question for you pantsers.

    I've had pantsers get angry when I said that writers either plan their stories before they write them or afterwards (in prodigious amounts of rewrites). They insisted that I was wrong and that they didn't need any but the smallest rewrites.

    So, what do you do when you realize that you left a plot hole fifty or a hundred pages ago?

    I ask because I'm taking a break from my main WIP to create a simple middle grade novel which I'm trying hard to keep from planning, but I found an error in the first thousand words. The story starts with a twelve-year-old boy regaining consciousness in a hospital emergency room. He has near total amnesia of everything prior to the emergency room. His anatomy isn't really human (though he appears human on the surface). What I overlooked is that he would need an ally in the hospital who could help hide his medical records.

    I'm interested in the process you pantsers go through to fix plot holes.
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think the process is probably pretty similar - we go back and fix them, just like I assume you're going to do with yours?

    So, in terms of process - if I decide to do something with the story that will require changes in what came before, I usually add a comment to the MS, saying something like "Character X shifted to more sinister here ". And then when I go back over the story, I know that I have to look at the way Character X was portrayed prior to that note and change it a bit. If the change required is something that's only going to be in part of the MS, I'll often go back and change it before I write the rest of the story.

    I expect this is pretty much how a plotter would handle it if they decided they needed to change something?

    In terms of the "plan stories before or after" idea - I think you're missing the plan during option. You may also want to look at a closer definition of "prodigious" rewrites. There are people on this board who have been working on the same book for five or more years. I'm not really sure what they're doing with their time, but I assume prodigious rewrites may be involved. But there are lots of pantsers who are publishing several books a year - I don't think their re-writing can be all that extensive, as they simply aren't spending that much time on each book.
     
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  3. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    ...pantser?
     
  4. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    "Pantsers" are writers who sit down at a blank sheet of paper and start writing by the seat of their pants. Contrast them with plotters aka planners who think about their story and then sit down and write it.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    My short stories unfolded as wrote them, no planning and the editing was not for the plot, it was for the writing.

    I wrote a complete detailed draft for my duology in a month and a half without a plan. Now that I am turning that draft into a finished novel, I haven't looked at the draft at all. The story is growing and changing as I go. So the draft has given me a general plot, but when I get done, the novel may only vaguely resemble the draft.

    I don't know about 'getting angry', but you're wrong to think that "writers either plan their stories before they write them or afterwards (in prodigious amounts of rewrites)."

    Rewrites and editing is not about story planning in my case.

    Perhaps you could explain what you mean by planning after the fact.
     
  6. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    I mean no offense, but as I've not read your novel, I have no idea if it is publishable (not including self-publishing). So, for all I know, your novel requires more rewrites, but you just aren't aware of that fact. Please understand that I'm not criticizing your story, I'm just saying that I lack the information to respond intelligently on your comments above.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I ask again: Perhaps you could explain what you mean by planning after the fact.
     
  8. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    OK, WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THIS THREAD?! I have seen this OP a million times in like the last year or two, yet it is dated from today!! Am I in the matrix???
     
  9. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't really consider myself a panster, but when I'm writing, I don't go back. Ever. It throws off my entire flow if I have to fix every scene with a plot hole. Instead, I just make a note of it in my document and move on. I'll get it during edits.
     
  10. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    What?!? Numbers has an avatar????? I was so confused. :(
     
  11. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    I mean editing and rewriting beyond grammar and spelling.
     
  12. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Rewriting to get rid of filter words and telling doesn't change the plot.

    Whatever issue you are having with disbelief about the pantser style of writing isn't coming through in your posts.

    I never heard of pantsers and plotters until I saw it in this forum, so I never thought much about it, but I definitely write the story as I go without knowing where it's going when I start.

    I'm not sure why you don't find that credible.
     
  13. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    Where I wrote "beyond grammar and spelling" add getting
    rid of filter words and telling".

    I have no disbelief about the pantser style. Obviously, writing the story as the writer goes without knowing where its going when the writer starts works for some writers. That's great. But, to say that it then comes out perfect, without the need for substantial editing and rewrites is like saying that a Hollywood movie can be made without editing or rewrites. It just isn't something I will believe without evidence. That doesn't mean I believe pantsing doesn't work. It just means that I believe there are corrections that pantsers need to make as they go along when producing quality work. This thread is me asking about how those corrections are made.
     
  14. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Whether a writer can produce a well written piece on a first pass is a separate issue from whether a writer is a plotter or a pantser.

    It wouldn't matter if I had a perfect plot before I started writing. I can't write a well written piece without putting it down on paper and then fixing it. It's just how my brain works.

    Other writers lay their work down on paper with perfect prose as it comes directly out of their heads.

    Plotting vs pantsing is a different issue from writing well on the first pass or not.
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But surely Hollywood movies are planned, and therefore should be perfect on the first try? No, right?

    I have trouble believing that any story, planned or unplanned, could come out without the need for substantial editing and rewrites. But apparently for some people, it is possible.
     
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  16. Edward M. Grant
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    Edward M. Grant Contributing Member

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    Harlan Ellison once sat in the window of a book store writing stories on a typewriter and sticking each page up in the window as he finished it. Haven't read them, but I gather they weren't bad. Heinlein famously advised writers "you must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order," but he grew up in the pulp era.

    A lot of writers claim to have written successful novels in two weeks or less, which doesn't leave much time for rewriting; though who knows how much editing happened after the publisher took over. Michael Moorcock says he wrote a lot of his novels in a week or less, but had a fairly clear plan to follow. Lionel Fanthorpe wrote a novel every weekend for some years by dictating it into a tape recorder, mostly based on a title and cover the publisher sent him... never read one, but apparently it does show :).

    I think part of the problem is the implication that pantsing doesn't include 'editing and rewrites'. I no longer outline, but I do go back and revise the previous day's work before I write anything new, I fix problems straight away when I realize I missed something early on ('dammit, I need a bear trap on the wall, I'd better add one in act one') and I go back every now and again to run through the whole story from the start and fix up problems I've introduced by doing so.

    In the novel I'm just finishing, for example, I went back and dramatically changed one of the characters about a third of the way through the story when I realized they were the wrong character for that book. I also made big changes to the backstory when I realized I'd set that up wrong.

    I just found that, after writing an outline, I no longer felt any need to write the book. Telling the story is the fun part, and I'd already done it in the outline. So what was the point?

    Also, as some writers whose names I can't remember offhand have said: if the writer doesn't know where the story is going, the reader isn't likely to figure it out, either.

    Edit: oh, yeah, I also use the 'comment' feature in LibreOffice to make notes when there's something minor I need to check on later, or fix up. "Does Red have paws or hands? Hands, I think." was the first one I found in this novel.
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2015
  17. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm a hard-core pantser. I can't outline or plan ahead - my brain comes up with zero ideas unless I'm actually writing the text of the story. So I just dive into the first draft without planning anything (beyond having a character and a situation he has to deal with). I write scenes and chapters out of order and assemble them later, sometimes. I take a lot of wrong turns, like a rat trying to find his way out of a maze. During the process of writing the first draft, I take copious notes. I mean, massive quantities of notes. My notes probably total a higher word count than the draft itself.

    What I have when I'm done my first draft is essentially a flawed outline for the story - draft plus notes. I read it through, making more notes.

    Then I get into the second draft, which is the real work. Now I know what my story is about. I understand my characters and have a clear grasp of theme. Not much of the first draft survives this process. I have to delete wrong turns (big blocks of text - sometimes 10,000 to 20,000 words) and replace them with material that makes sense. This material is usually longer than the stuff that gets deleted. Also, I expand upon the scenes in the original draft that survive the cull. I've never understood Stephen King and the others who say that the second draft is the first draft minus ten percent. My second drafts are my first drafts plus twenty to thirty percent.

    Again, during the writing of the second draft, I take massive quantities of notes. (This is one reason I love Scrivener - it makes note-taking easy, and it's easy to relate the notes to the parts of the text they apply to.)

    Writing the second draft (and its associated notes) is the best fun I have as a writer. I know where the story is going and I focus on what I love best - writing good prose. I read the manuscript aloud to myself a lot during this process, making sure it sounds good. I often record myself reading it aloud. Sometimes I haul out the old guitar or synth and compose a little music to go along with the spoken-word recording of the story. (I really need to upgrade my recording equipment to do this properly.)

    Sometimes, during this whole second-draft process, I come up with new and better ideas. This necessitates a third draft. Great! I get to live with my characters in their world a little longer while making my story better. I welcome all of this.

    I'm aware that this isn't an efficient way of working, and I will never be prolific working like this. But I don't want to be Stephen King, writing a hundred novels. I'd hate to write so many novels that I can't remember them all. I'd rather write five or six really good ones than a hundred forgettable ones. :)
     
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  18. Justin Rocket 2
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    Justin Rocket 2 Contributing Member

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    But, plotters can get closer to that goal precisely because they have thought through the story ahead of time. Take, for example, the problem I mentioned in the OP. If I had permitted myself to think through the plot before writing it, I would have caught that error and have less work to do on the rewrites.

    Now, my intent with this thread wasn't to get into yet another plotter vs. pantser debate. I didn't start the plotter vs. pantser debate. My goal here was and is to ask about pantsers' processes of fixing their errors. I thought, perhaps, that pantsers don't go back and fix their story, rather they incorporate the error (for example, in the plot hole in the OP the absence of a known ally protecting the boy's medical records becomes a plot point - there is an unknown ally to be revealed later or an enemy, known or unknown, found the boy's medical records).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 25, 2015
  19. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I can do a short story that way. I just start with an idea and if I write it straight through I don't need much editing. I sold one that was basically a first draft except for the last paragraph. Of course, some of them do take more editing. Longer stories I with do some planning or go back and do more substantive editing to tie it all up.
     
  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    As for right or wrong, it's a silly argument. Whatever works for any given writer is the "right" way.
     
  21. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I do plan my story after I've pantsed it for a bit... but only for a bit.

    The actors show up (I always think of the characters as actors*) at a place and start doing a thing. I just keep writing that until it runs out, which is usually a scene or two. Then I walk away from it and let it ferment. When I come back to it, I cut it up and rearrange it. It always looks and feels like an opening scene before the cutting process, but it never actually is. I spread those pieces out. I've got an ending at that point where I know I want the story to arrive eventually. There's usually a middle too. The beginning takes longer to work out. So, I pants and then I plan, but I never pants for any length of time or page.

    *I think of them as actors because I know that once the pantsing part is done, the planning part takes over and the characters are, at that point, there to fill a purpose. The time for them to show me who they are and all their neat tricks and eccentricities is already past. I'm not invested in them as "pretend friends". They're employees with a job to do at that point.
     
  22. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Why do you think your experience applies to everyone else? :confused:

    I agree with them. You also seem to be defining all the terms here to fit your needs.

    You say you aren't looking to debate the process but this sounds like a debate:
    However, taking you at your word:
    Simple, I pants some more. Think of it as working out a piece at a time rather than the whole story at a time.

    This isn't exactly a plot hole but I started writing the transition character's POV and it seemed to abrupt for the critique group to spend 80% of the book in the protagonist's head then shift. So I've gone back earlier in the story and written a new chapter in the transition character's POV. I may or may not write more.

    I think it depends a lot on how you build the story. I build mine in my head, the plotter you are describing sounds like they build the story on paper (or in a doc file) before writing. That sounds much harder to me.

    It's just a matter of writing style. I don't know how plotters do it, because that style doesn't work for me. But I wouldn't doubt someone who told me that's how they work best.
     
  23. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it could go either way - I mean, something isn't an error unless you consider it an error, right? So if you're thinking about taking the plot in a direction that's not supported by the previously written content, you can either change the plot direction or change the previous content. Easy!
     
  24. Mckk
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    My writer friend does that. She kinda adds some explanation afterwards or an extra line/extra info to account for whatever plot hole she finds.

    Thing is, doing rewrites isn't the same as planning. If I rewrote my manuscript, I might not necessarily be planning anything, though I very well could. It could be that I've made no error and therefore no changes in the plot, but I'd rewrite it nonetheless because 1) perhaps the writing sucked, 2) perhaps a different order of events or structure is needed to tell the story better, 3) perhaps a deleted scene requires a new one, or perhaps something would be better revealed if another scene was added.

    None of those necessarily affect plotting - so in that sense, you could say you did not "plan" anything after the manuscript's been written. You merely edited/rewrote sections.

    Essentially, I think we all have certain ideas of what editing/rewriting/planning involves but we may not all agree on each other's definition of it exactly.

    In any case, I've tried to be a pantster for years and every single time I've ended up getting stuck, 'cause it doesn't make sense and I'm not the kind who can just go, "Oh I can explain this away by saying there's a blue alien in the flower pot singing Mozart!" Plotting is probably my weakest skill, and as such I've scrapped more drafts than I care to count for my first novel (which is still being worked on 5 years later).

    I have no problem writing when I know what to write - I don't find writing difficult really. On the other hand, I find imagining how things would go down in a situation I've never lived quite difficult. (for example, how would one get away from police officers aiming guns at you while you're trapped down a tunnel? I haven't a clue.)

    The one time I did finish an entire draft by myself, I actually planned it milestone by milestone from start to finish. I pants-ed the stuff in between, how things happen and dialogue etc and I let events go where they naturally would, always guiding it back to the planned milestone. That one I finished. So I'm beginning to think I'm actually not much of a panster at all.

    When I was a kid though, I never planned a single thing :D but then again, neither did I care whether it made a shred of sense :crazy: it was just plain fun!
     

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