1. Jon Sikes
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    Jon Sikes New Member

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    Seat-Of-Your-Pants vs Outlining

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Jon Sikes, Apr 11, 2015.

    Since taking up the challenge and task of writing my novel, I've read about and attended workshops on different writing processes. Most of the books and speakers discussed using outlines to some degree while the majority tend to discuss and favor plotless free-writing or the "Seat of Your Pants" method. They use phrases like: "seeing where my fingers take me", "I never know which direction the story is gonna go", "the characters do what they want", and the classic line, "The characters take on a life of their own."

    But how can you just start writing without knowing what you are going to write? Following the logic of these statements, you could set out with the goal of writing a supernatural thriller and end up with a YA coming-of-age tale. Also, I understand fleshing out your characters so they feel like real people, but in the end they are fabrications of the author's design and not real people, so how can they do what they want? I believe Mark Twain said, "Life is chaotic but fiction requires order!" Shouldn't it stand that writing anything would require a certain amount of forethought?

    With regards to forming a creative paradigm, the methods I am most familiar with and accustomed to is outlining using Three Act Structure, plot points, and scene breakdowns. Maybe I'm being too literal, but can anyone explain what is meant by all this or how "Seat of Your Pants" writing is possible?
     
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  2. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The 3 Act structure, plot events, and scenes can all be googled to learn it at length. If you want me to recommend books, I'd list Dwight Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer, Paula Munier's Plot Perfect: How to Build Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene, Brian MacDonal's Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories that Resonate, and Robert McKee's Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting (I'd recommend it even if you aren't writing a script).

    I guess I could add that I'm a meticulous outliner. It works very well for when I write scripts; for prose, I'm not sure if it helped or hindered me more.
     
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  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    People go out on Friday night and dance without writing down choreography in advance, cook without writing down a measured step-by-step plan, go out for a walk while not necessarily knowing exactly where they'll go, engage in conversation without having a written agenda in advance.

    Not everything needs a plan. I'm not trying to be sarcastic here; I'm having trouble understanding what it is that you're not understanding. You might prefer an outline before writing; others might find that as impossible as writing, and sticking to, a topic-by-topic agenda for dinner conversation.
     
  4. Jon Sikes
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    Jon Sikes New Member

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    But how can a writer just start writing without knowing what they are going to write or the direction of the story? How do "characters do what they want" or "have a life of their own". Most writers have some amount of a God-complex, so how can they let the story get away from them or give up control over it? I just don't understand some writer's disdain and abhorrence for plot. Free-writing is a great exercise for writing, similar to brainstorming but I would by no means use it as a final method of executing my creative paradigm.

    I use the "Snowflake" method, wherein I write character bios, setting descriptions, draw out a plot outline with the major plot points, and then write scenes down on index cards but as for the "meat" of the story, I let my imagination fill in the details. This method allows a lot of freedom to create as I write, but not to the extent that I have to make major revision in later drafts. I own McKee's Story but I am a really big fan of Syd Field's Screenplay: Foundations of Screenwriting and The Screenwriter's Workbook. I love his dissection of Three Act Structure, his use of plot points, and the paradigm.
     
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  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I have my own theory on this topic. I think if you 'pants' it, you're more likely to discover stuff you hadn't though of doing, and new and exciting things about your story that you hadn't thought of when the initial idea popped into your head. Furthermore, you are likely to have characters that develop more organically and believably, because you let them gain lives as you write. Ditto your setting.

    However, the downside—and I don't see it as a downside, really—is that you will need to spend LOTS of time afterwards during your editing process. You will need to look at the finished story as a whole.

    You must be prepared to shape, prune and re-form parts of it that seemed great at the time you wrote them, but detract from the story as it now stands. The editing part of a pantser's routine is crucial, and if you pants your story, you will need to be prepared to get rid of lots of good stuff that just doesn't fit any more. You may need to re-envision scenes in an entirely new way. You also may need to write new bits, or even new chapters, that provide believable transitions. You will need to sharpen the focus at the beginning, so it now points to what your end evolved into. This is why I can't say often enough, do NOT waste time polishing and repolishing and honing your beginning until after you've reached the end. You may well decide to scrap the whole thing and write an entirely new beginning.

    The upside of the outlining method is that you won't make plotting mistakes, or go down the wrong road. However, it's too easy to start fitting the pre-cut pieces together as if it was a jigsaw puzzle. You make your pre-drawn characters do what you need them to do. You sketch out just enough background and setting detail to service the plot. In other words, your precision can suck the life out of the piece.

    I don't mean this will inevitably happen, but in the hands of a beginning writer, outlining can turn into a write-by-numbers exercise that has no emotional pull. We've certainly seen examples of this in the Workshops, where the authors tell us everything we need to know, but the writing doesn't grab or engage. It's as if they're sketching out a detailed movie story board. The emotional connection gets overlooked. We see what the character is doing, and get lots of dialogue chucked at us—but that's not always enough to get us hooked. If we don't understand the character's motivations or feel what the character feels, we are going to find him/her forgettable. Maybe even before the first chapter has ended.

    Don't make the mistake of thinking that all pantsers have absolutely no idea where a story is going when they start. Many of us have a pretty good idea, but it's not all worked out. And it may change. That's the beauty of pantsing. You don't feel reluctant to change, when new ideas strike you. You're not tied to an outline, so you can go with whatever happens as you write. And shape the thing later on. Fortuitous accidents are a part of most artistic endeavours, I reckon. It's a shame to feel you can't take advantage of them, because it screws up what you thought you ought to do when you started out.

    In a nutshell, I believe that pantsing takes longer, but produces richer rewards.

    I totally pantsed my first novel. My second novel is a direct sequel to the first, but I'm writing it in a totally different way.

    I wrote my first novel out of chronological order. This second one is progressing chapter by chapter. I've written an outline for it, and even a timeline for events. I know where my sequel story is headed, and I'm dealing with characters I already know and have written. I'm finding that I can now accomplish more—and accomplish it more quickly—in a day's writing, BUT I also feel distanced from the characters at the moment. I'm busy getting them from A to B, so I can move on to C. All very clinical and admirable, I'm sure, but I'm not enjoying it as much. The writing lacks the emotional spark I created in the original, and this is starting to bother me.

    I've backed off it for a while, while I format and get the original ready for publication. When I go back to the sequel, I'm going to try writing some of the chapters totally OUT of sequence, and connect them later on. I think this is what I need to do. It's interesting to work with the contrast in method, and it's made me more aware of the pitfalls of each.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2015
  6. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    You are not them, and they are not you. A pantser might as well ask 'but how are you supposed to know where your story is going until your characters have taken you there?'

    Personally, I'm a planner. I need to know the end, otherwise I have no idea where to start, and I'll usually have an outline written for each scene before I start the story proper (and I only ever do shorts and flash, so lots of people would say that's overkill). I tried pantsing with the latest thing I put in the workshop; I think the beginning worked fairly well, but the end was weak because I just didn't know where I was going with it.

    Even then, though, the end I have planned isn't always the one I end up at, and I can't remember once sticking to the plan precisely. I'll have ideas I think are better, other avenues I want to explore. Sometimes it'll just turn out that the plan that fitted together so smoothly in my head is kinda rubbish when it's actually on paper. But without that initial outline, I can't get going at all.

    I remember an interview on Radio 4 with a mystery writer (I forget her name, it was a few years ago) who said that she was about 3/4 of the way through her latest book, so now she needed to work out who the murderer was. I don't think I could ever manage that, but she was on something like her fifteenth book so it evidently worked for her.

    tl;dr - different strokes, different folks.
     
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  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, absolutely, @NigeTheHat . The only mistake a new writer can make is thinking—no believing—that there is some magic formula that applies to all good writers, in terms of method. Unfortunately many modern 'how-to' books try to make people think there is. That's how they sell their books. The authors of the how-to's, I mean.

    The only way to discover what works for you is to do it. And you may find that even THAT changes as you mature as a writer.

    I was just reading this morning about an author who says she can't write unless she's in a cafe or restaurant or some public place, because she needs the busy-ness around her in order to concentrate. EEE yipe. That is SO not me, but it works for her.
     
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  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is a level at which a person is comfortable just freely thinking of ideas and writing with those ideas. For you and no doubt many others, that is at a level below scenes and major actions. For others, it's at or above that level. Edited to add: And by "above" or "below" I'm not making a value judgement. I'm just talking about the size of things that you're comfortable allowing to happen spontaneously.

    You say, "I let my imagination fill in the details." So you don't plan everything. You don't write down, "Jane will be returning from her trip to the Piggly Wiggly. She will be wearing red Keds and have a small grocery bag containing..."

    And even if you did write that down, you had to come up with the red Keds somehow. You didn't do a statistical analysis of Jane's personality type cross-checked against shoe purchases in a particular location and allow your choice be dictated by the most likely shoe. You thought, "Hey! Keds!" and you put them on Jane's feet.

    And if it turned out that Jane shouldn't be wearing red Keds--maybe Jane is entirely financially dependent on her mother and her mother would never be caught dead buying such a thing--you shrug and put Jane in something else. No big deal. You made a creative decision, it got in the way, you fixed it.

    You mention "not to the extent that I have to make major revisions in later drafts." You say this as if it's a dealbreaker--as if it's a dealbreaker not just for you, but of course for everyone. But for me, making major revisions is no big deal. The dealbreaker for me would be pre-planning as much as you pre-plan. If I pre-planned that much, I would lose interest before I did any writing.

    Have you ever had a dream that you realized, after analyzing it, followed a complex symbolic pattern and followed it beautifully? I have. And I certainly didn't sit down and create that dream by taking notes using the Snowflake method. The dream just happened. I consider that evidence of the ability of the human brain--not just my brain, but everyone's--to spontaneously generate story-sized creations.

    And whether you answer yes or no about the plot of dreams, surely the characters in your dreams just do what they do, right? You didn't sit down and create a bio and give them motivations and plan their every action. They just did stuff. You were controlling that stuff, in the sense that your brain created it, but you perceived it as those characters having a life of their own. That's how it is when characters take on a life of their own in my stories. If you have characters in your dream, then that capability is in your brain, too.
     
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  9. TheWingedFox
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    TheWingedFox Active Member

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    I remember being disappointed, as if all my hopes had been dashed, when I learned that artists actually sketch and prepare their work, almost mathematically. I love Stanley Spencer, and he used to square-up (translate a smaller version of a painting to a larger one by cross hatching the original and just copying it onto the larger canvas). I thought artists just painted a masterpiece onto a blank canvas, and admittedly I don't know about every artist, but I'm guessing that they, like writers, have to go through several drafts before the final piece.

    I'm working on some stories I want to continue on to sequels, so I need to plan to think ahead. And I think I would screw up monumentally if I didn't have a detailed outline to work with when writing.

    It occurs to me that writers and artists have the same attributes, if you watch how they are presented on films and TV...they are creating magic in front of your eyes in an Ed Woodian first take. The writer lays the final page of her draft by the typewriter, a neat pile of pages of the finished masterpiece.

    I think in the commercial side of writing at least, this is sadly not true.

    But to write, you need to just write, experiment, try things out, and that's where the 'let your fingers lead you' philosophy comes in. But I wouldn't just write a work without knowing where I'm going.

    I'll be interested to know if there is a famous literary work that has been written in the manner.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    When you say "literary" do you mean in the sense of a masterpiece that might be on the academic syllabus of a course that's about something other than popular culture? Or just some well-known book?
     
  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not entirely sure, but Jack Kerouac's On the Road might be one of these. A "masterpiece" in the first draft.

    I consider myself a pantser. I start, usually, with a character and a situation he's in. Setting comes with that. I often have a quasi-ending in mind, so I know my direction, but I fully expect the ending to change drastically as I write.

    I don't like planning. The problem for me is, if I plan and come up with an outline, I feel like the story has already been told, and I don't want to write it any more. "I've already figured out this problem in the outline. Why bother going to all the effort of writing the prose?" I lose interest if there's nothing creative to do to the story as I'm writing it.

    Pantsing is a very different thing. You start with the bare minimum, and trust yourself to create as you go. That's what makes it interesting. The journey is more important than the destination. As has been noted before, if you're a pantser, you're going to need to edit a lot. I have no problem with that - rewriting is fun! I might have to rip out half my story, and write new material to fill the gaps, but that's cool. It's life as a pantser. The attraction is that I'm finding my story as I go, so it means more to me than writing from an outline. I think a pantser learns about himself as he writes more than a planner does, and that's valuable to me. :)
     
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  12. Jon Sikes
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    Jon Sikes New Member

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    I think what I'm not understanding is, where does the dramatic structure come from if you pay no attention to plot? How can you know where to start if you don't know where you want to go? Simply having a character face obstacles and make decisions based on cause and effect doesn't inevitably lead anywhere. Where is the logic demanded of fiction that separates it from our unmotivated, chaotic real lives? Drama is at the heart of storytelling and conflict is the essence of drama. I don't believe randomly jotting down words on a page will miraculously create conflict and and therefore a story. You will end up with a cluster of non-sequiturs, observations, and anecdotes. I believe you must have a goal in mind when you decide to tell a story; whether it is a physical one, a literary one, or a moral/ethical one, you must accomplish this by the end and that requires forethought, planning, and plotting. If you don't fulfill the promises of Page 1, what was the point?

    When I said, "not to the extent that I have to make major revisions in later drafts", I was illustrating my belief in writing succinctly and efficiently. I'm sorry, but I prefer to execute matters with punctuality and adroitness.

    As for the matter of comparing dreams to storytelling, I was thinking about this same analogy a few days ago. While the characters that inhabit a dream are the creation of the dreamer and dreams just happen, a dream is not a story. A dream is the middle of a story. There is no beginning and no end; only when you wake up is it over. Character motivations are unknown and conflicts are rarely resolved organically. In my opinion, while dreams can serve as catalysts for stories, without structure they do not satisfy the dramatic and narrative requirements of a proper story.
     
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  13. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think like that, too! :)

    There is such fun, finally finishing a pantsed, but fully edited story, knowing you made something from nothing, and that it works!
     
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  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    There is nothing wrong with your approach, and if you feel more comfortable doing that, and if your final result pleases you and presumably your readers, then you've nailed YOUR method.

    As I mentioned before, though ...it's not so much that we pantsers don't know where we want to go. It's that we don't get the journey all planned out ahead of time. Sometimes we just come up with a character or two, and a situation or two.

    I have this young man who is carrying a large burden from his past. He turns up, a wounded stranger in need of help, at an isolated ranch house, deep in Montana Territory along the Great Divide. He is taken in by the ranch owners, a brother and sister, who are about the same age as the young stranger.

    Okay ...possibilities already appear, but I'm not writing a historical romance, although a love story does seem to be on the horizon. But what is the young man's burden? Is he being pursued? Or is he pursuing? Or just wandering? And where did he come from originally?

    I get a strong vision of him, and realise he comes from an entirely different place, and that he is looking for something, or someone, that is crucial to his life. That lonely search has made him very sad and introverted. The search has not been successful, and he doesn't see any happy way to end it. But now it's winter, he's been hurt, can't travel any more, and gets caught in a blizzard, and needs to take shelter. And he ends up at that ranch—and his old life starts to change almost immediately.

    His family's ethnic background is much different from that of the brother and sister, and he grew up in Kansas himself. In fact, he's as different from the brother and sister at the ranch as I can make him. I begin to envision (and write) a couple of scenes between him and the brother and sister—and the fact that while they grow quickly fond of each other, he needs to keep his past a secret from them ...and from there, my story grows. That's what pantsing is like.

    As the scenes grew more vivid in my brain, I wrote them out. And each scene I wrote crystallised the characters. The purpose of the story evolved. Many of these initial scenes were either discarded or edited almost out of recognition, but they were the impetus. And what came of this pantsing was an intense realisation of my protagonist's personality and character, a steady sense of what drove him north, what his search was, and of course the way he was received and the growing relationship between himself, the sister and brother. This would eventually come into direct conflict with his original purpose—which—this being fiction—will turn up and bite him in the arse before the story ends.

    The story became one of an individual's attempt to deal with things he couldn't change, to accept things that are offered to him by fate, and to work out how much responsibility each one of us has for the behaviour of others. Should we blame ourselves for what somebody else does? Or is everyone responsible for their own choices in life, no matter what their background might be?

    This is the sort of thing you can do with pantsing.

    ............

    Incidentally, @Jon Sikes — this may make you laugh, considering what you wrote in the quoted bit above—but the first page of my story was literally the last page I wrote! I finished my first draft back in 2001, but I only got my opening scene written a couple of weeks ago. It now ties in directly with the climax of the story, which comes in the second-to-last chapter. It wasn't till I wrote the beginning that I was finally 'done.' It's been said that you won't know the beginning of your story till you get to the end, and I totally agree with that.

    I'm formatting for publication now.
     
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  15. neuropsychopharm
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    neuropsychopharm Active Member

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    I feel like it's possible to work with both approaches, honestly. I've written down at this point an idea of what I want to have happen every chapter in my WIP but it's still just loose until it's written. Just the other day I moved things around for better flow and to help with length, for example.

    Not only that, but I've only got such a clear idea of how I want it look after spending months absorbed in it and plotting in my head--daydreaming really. I started with a much more vague idea of the story I wanted to write. Character came first. And even though I've got this proposed chapter outline and so many notes and partially written scenes, I still come up with new ideas frequently. Lastly, the words themselves obviously aren't crystal clear until you begin writing.
     
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  17. neuropsychopharm
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    neuropsychopharm Active Member

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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    I think it depends on the way the writer thinks, and to some extent, the nature of the work. I'm a pantser, myself. The very idea of outlining takes me back to the dreaded high school term paper, with index cards and footnotes rampant. As @jannert says above, though, I do a lot more editing and rewriting than do the outliners, I think.

    The idea that the story, or worse, the characters, 'do what they want' is, of course, ridiculous. Everything comes from your mind.

    "My knowledge of Mr. Forster’s works is limited to one novel, which I dislike; and anyway, it was not he who fathered that trite little whimsy about characters getting out of hand; it is as old as the quills, although of course one sympathizes with his people if they try to wriggle out of that trip to India or wherever he takes them. My characters are galley slaves."

    - Vladimir Nabokov
     
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  19. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    The thing that most plotters tend to forget is that they are also pantsers - I mean, how do they come up with their outline? By exactly the same method pantsers use - the only real difference being that pantser fill in all the details first, and plotters come back and do it. Now to me, a died-in-the-wool pantser, that coming back to fill in the details seems a great waste of time and energy. I mean, if you're going to decide what happens next anyway, why not just write it and move on? Then again, the idea of coming back and rewriting (which some pantsers seem to take for granted) also seems a great waste of time and energy. If you've written something you're happy with, why go back later and change it? If you're not writing willy-nilly, you'll know X can't happen because Y already did.

    But that just illustrates how constraining these terms can be. People say they're plotters or pantsers and then describe how they do things, and someone else says, "Well, that means you're really a [opposite of what you are] because you do this instead of that!". Try different things and if you don't like it, don't do it. I hate outlining so I don't do it. It doesn't matter whether others use it successfully or not.
     
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  20. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think there are many authors who are "pure" at either end of the scale. Like, I don't think there are many pantsers who don't have a rough idea of what their genre will be and probably what the main conflict is. And I don't think there are many plotters who would completely ignore a great idea for a new subplot or theme or something just because it came to them after the official outlining period was over.

    In terms of famous pantsers? Stephen King says that's how he writes; EL Doctorow is widely quoted as having said writing a novel is "like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." I'm pretty sure there are others.
     
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  21. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    ...I feel that this is making a lot of assumptions about pantsing and plotting and their respective products.

    A plotter isn't necessarily going to write more succinctly--either may produce a tight product that doesn't use an excess word, or a sprawling, highly detailed one. A plotter isn't necessarily going to be any more punctual--in fact, it might well take longer to create the outline and then fill it in than to write a pantser first draft and then edit it. That addresses efficiency as well. I'm similarly not clear on how a plotter is inherently more adroit/skilled.

    I could say, "Not to the extent that I have to waste a lot of time outlining ahead of time--that's just an inefficient waste of time, and you'll obviously end up clumsily producing an overwritten product well after your deadline!" And I might be right for me. I'd be wrong for you.

    People are different.
     
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  22. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    I can see why you are so easily confused by the idea of someone writing by the seat of their pants.

    However, like anything, it depends on the person, for you, maybe meticulously planning things out is how you want to write, where for someone like me, only the major points tacked to some obscure corner of my mind is all I need to work from, the rest forms around that.

    What also needs to be considered is that what works for one person, may not work for another, same with the novels themselves, what would work for one novel, couldn't work for another. My example here would be a comparison between my current WIP and another idea I have. my WIP, as commented in the paragraph above, just has a few key plot points tacked to one corner of my mind, whereas another idea I have will require a lot of forethought and planning, which I have started on already. Both lots are series, and from the same genre, but they both require different approaches as to how they are to be written.

    What I am trying to say is that there is no steadfast rule to what writing entails, as like anything, it changes throughout time.
     
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I asked myself that same thing the other day, when a writer friend (Pantser) told me (when I was momentarily stuck) to "let the characters lead the way". How do you actually do that? I mean, how does it work? I think it's something you are, or you're not. Teaching a pantser to plot is about as difficult (and maybe even pointless) as the other way around, so I think one should just go with whatever method that comes naturally, at least as long as it works. But I still don't quite understand where it comes from, if the writer don't know beforehand what he's going to write, or even write about. One of lifes many mysteries :D
     
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  24. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Speaking as a pantser who writes from characters first and not plot, it's a bit hard to understand this question. I mean, what would your character do in that situation? That's the question you're asking. If you come up blank, then to me it means you don't know your character very well. It means that's not the way you think about fiction.

    Planners do it differently (I think - I'm not one). They have the whole story plotted out in their head. So how do they get stuck? They're working from an outline and the answer should be decided already.

    I think, if you get stuck, it's an opportunity to learn about your character. It's a moment of definition for your character. Your character has come to a fork in the road - go right? Go left? The choice determines something important about the character. Be prepared for that.
     
  25. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Okay I used to think like this but I think I get it. Or I have a theory. I didn't read every post so sorry if this a repeat answer.

    I don't think it is a either or kind of thing. I think they are two sides of the same coin and just like light and dark they are defined by how little of the other is there but in a sense you need both to even be aware of ones presence.

    I have two examples.

    Okay think about this scene. You are in you room and your hungry. So you decide to go to the kitchen and eat. What will you eat? You don't know yet. Going to the kitchen that is a plan or outlining. Waiting until you are there to make the next move? That is flying by the seat of your pants. We can crank of the concepts for contrast. I mean the above scene doesn't sound strange does it? But if you sat in your room saying. "I am hungry. I will make chicken. It will take 7 minutes and thirty five seconds because I will cook it in the microwave at 1300 watts. I will then do the dishes in order of size, smallest to largest." That seems like a lot of planning before you even leave your room doesn't it?

    Other side. Going to cook and cooking noodles before checking if you have sauce. That seems very seat of your pants to me. Sort of "Oh noodles. I want them." and not asking if it fits with what else you have. But under the scene lets assume you have sauces. The point is you began cooking noodles before you picked a sauce. Very random. Right? Then again this seems just as strange to me as over planning.

    Does that make sense?

    Okay. My personally finding. I love planning. Will spend weeks yes weeks thinking about exact dialogue in a scene. I never got much writing down back then. I am better now. Thing is whether you think or not. You do randomly come up with ideas don't you? I mean if you like me. You have a sat at the computer writing a planned scene and suddenly went "IDEA!" it happens. That is by the seat of your pants. Thing is. I don't think you "can" only work off of that. Does that mean they need an end or full outline? Know but they know they want to write. I willing to bet they have a scene in mind. Like lets say they had a character. They want to see him in a martial arts tournament. Because they had an idea for a fight. They write the fight(middle of the story.) Then they ask? How did he get here or what happened next? Thing is they don't have to sit and think. They think aloud with there fingers. Again if you ever written dialogue I bet you do get it. You write a line and then think of a response right?

    Okay more personal. Less then 8 hours ago. I was writing a scene. The scene ended and the next thing involved a character going home to a family reunion they didn't know was happening. I knew that was the scene. In my mind and preplanning stage I had figured a phone call was the most likely way to explain it. As I sat there literally about to write that I said. "Nah. That is boring" and then asked. How else can I do this scene? My answer the MC arriving home to a family member waiting outside there door ready to pick them up. A lot more energy, a lot more fun and an example of me an outliner flying by the seat of my pants.
     
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