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  1. deadrats

    deadrats Contributing Member

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    Pantsers -- When should you know what your story is about?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by deadrats, Jan 23, 2017.

    So, you're pantsing your novel and everything is going great. At a certain point does the whole story seem to come to you or does it just continue to pour out 1k to 2k words at a time? Is it really important to know where your story is going? Can I just trust in the process that this will turn into a novel? Is it okay to have only a loose idea of what the story could be about and continuously be willing to change directions? At some point do you feel you need to firm up the plot? I want to surprise myself with this story. It's already happened a few times. I'm now contemplating a major overhaul of my existing pages to sort of change the course of the story, but I still don't really know where I'm going with it. I guess a lot of pantsing is really trusting your gut. How much do you trust your intuition? I really want this story to work, but it makes me a little nervous not to have more of a plan. Have you pantsed a whole novel? Were you happy with the results?
     
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  2. AgentBen

    AgentBen Member

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    A lot of writers avoid the use of the outline. Doing this allows you to make your story come naturally. As long as you have an ending you enjoy, you can revise the book later on. This includes things like firming you plot up, getting rid of holes.

    You should have a general idea of where you story is going or at least what it is about. I don't think it is normal to literally make everything up a you write, but if you want to add, say, a magical creature halfway through your book, then its okay.

    Writing with knowing fully where you are going can be a great way to do things. Just make sure to write don't eventual plot points you want and throwaway the ones you don't. Then bam, you have a sort of out line and you can wing it again.
     
  3. IHaveNoName

    IHaveNoName Contributing Member

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    It depends on how complex the plot is. If it's pretty straightforward, you can pants your way through it with only minor revisions, then go back and rewrite everything so it makes sense afterward. Sometimes you can come up with good ideas that are hidden in your subconscious and only come out when you put fingers to the keyboard - it's happened to me.
     
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  4. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    As an exercise a few years ago, I just sat down each day and, rather than waiting for something to come, I just started typing. Surprisingly, the story was more or less coherent. So, it's possible to just go for it and not worry about anything. Type and the story will come, in other words.
    I like to know the ending, but it's not always necessary for a first draft. It takes a lot of effort for me to write this way, but the effort is spent on keeping myself from second-guessing, freaking out and generally psyching myself out.
    Yes. Just don't expect to get there in one draft.
    Absolutely. In fact, the more you go off on tangents and trust in yourself to be able to clean it up later, the more surprising your story will be.
    This is second draft stuff. Don't worry about it for now.
    Me? Not so much that I don't wrestle with doubts. As I said earlier, most of my energy while pantsing is spent on shoving all those doubts aside so I know what my intuition is saying.
    Yes. Several in fact.
    No, but that's what second drafts are for... and third... and fourth, etc.

    Have I been happy with the raw material of a first draft? Yes, most definitely.

    Good writing is rewriting. Asimov is the only person I've ever heard of who claimed to be able to turn in a first draft and get no revisions notes. But he wrote more than 600 books in his lifetime and this ability only came about late in his career. I recently read an article wherein he talked about going through numerous drafts for one of his early works, and that's the gauge we should be using if any.

    For now, write, have fun and don't worry about what the final story will be.
     
  5. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are you still writing literary? For me, it's important to have a rough idea of how I want my novels to end, right from the start - and that's easy, if I'm writing romance (Happily Ever After) or Suspense (Bad Guys Caught) or whatever. But for literary? You wouldn't have as clear of an idea of the ending, maybe, which would make it harder to keep your plot pointing roughly in that direction.

    I'd say you should either figure out roughly how you want the story to end (assuming you haven't done that already) or else be prepared for some intense rewriting.
     
  6. deadrats

    deadrats Contributing Member

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    I guess I'm not normal by your definition. I literally make up everything as I write it. I don't even know what's going to happen on the next page or in the next paragraph. I'm not looking to create an outline. I just don't work that way. At least right now I don't work that way. Personally, I don't see the point in doing much of any preplanning or prewriting. I rather spend the time actually writing. But this is a move from short stories to novels for me. I guess I'm still feeling it out. But I really, really don't want to make or use an outline. Honestly, I think it would be much harder to come up with a story by coming up with the whole thing (or part even) before writing it. So, at this point, I really don't know what my story is about because I have no idea what direction things will move let alone how any of this will end. The way I see it is I have a good few weeks to see how the story goes before I need an ending.
     
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  7. deadrats

    deadrats Contributing Member

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    Crap. I have no idea where I am going to take this story. I'm at a key point right now where things should get more interesting. The ending still seems so far away. Can't I just figure it out when I get there? I am writing literary fiction, but, really, I'm just calling it a novel.
     
  8. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I suspect what you need to do at this point is slow down. Put the thing away for a couple of days, then go back to it, read it carefully, and see what you've got. Is there anything there which points to an ending that you can envision? Some character trait you can build on? Some interaction you've created that foretells a larger story?

    I have always felt that time away from the actual writing that is used for thinking and imagining is just as much a part of writing as ...well ...writing. It employs a different part of your brain.

    If you weren't somewhat stuck at the moment, I wouldn't suggest this. But you seem to be at sea, not sure of your destination. Time maybe to stop rowing and just think about what you've done thus far?
     
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  9. Reed R Gale

    Reed R Gale Member

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    I don't think this is a bad approach. My rule of thumb is that when you write without a plan, you recognize that the story will probably lean toward saying something about yourself using the story as a medium. When you write with an outline, you write to tell a story through the medium of yourself. If that makes any sense.

    And @Sack-a-Doo! has the right idea. An expression of self can be polished into a coherent story with continuing drafts because now you know where you wanted to take it.
     
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  10. AgentBen

    AgentBen Member

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    Writing without an outline can be the best thing for your story. When you outline, it is more like a chore than writing. Writing without a plan means you can unleash the most creativity within you.
     
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  11. Reed R Gale

    Reed R Gale Member

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    I dunno that sounds like a scary, sweeping catch-all.

    Honestly, I think it's more important to note that there's a time and place for all techniques and that, here and now, writing without a plan is probably for the best.
     
  12. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Active Member

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    The problem I've always had with outlines is that any idea can look good in an outline, whereas most ideas end up sucking once you begin to write them. I know people that spend months working on outlines only to find out that the idea was a dud to begin with. Personally, I play with something for a few chapters to see if it works before I start taking notes and sketching a few things out. But then only sparingly. I think plot is a great thing to map out to some degree so you have some idea of narrative direction. But characters? Meh, takes all the fun out of it in my opinion.
     
  13. Lew

    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    I had a general idea where my characters were going and how they would get there, I knew where the ending was going to be, but not how they would get home or what would happen enroute. I knew in the middle there would be a crisis that would force them to choose between their mission and honor, and all would seem lost, then they would get out somehow and have lots of adventures getting home. Other than that, if I wanted to know what happened next, I had to go down and write it. Writing the book became to me like watching a an exciting TV series, and that is how many of my betas felt it read. Outline: Romans go to China in big ships, lots of bad people trying to take ships away, exciting storms and firefights. Get to Luoyang, looks like its going well, crisis of some sort involving a woman and a choice of honor vs expediency, some or all of them condemned to death. Ingenious jailbreak, escape back overland by foot, camel or horse, many people try to kill them. Get back to Rome

    Then I started writing
     
  14. Brie Marie

    Brie Marie New Member

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    What I do is jot down every idea as they come. This is a couple day process because more ideas come as I go. Then, I organize the notes, and read some thinking "That's a brilliant idea! I don't even remember writing that down." Then, I start the outline. I use to cringe at the idea of an outline, but my story is complex and there are going to be hints dropped here and there. An outline will help me stay on tract. It took me a while to figure the best way for me to do an outline, but now I love it.
     
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  15. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Dark, is it not? Contributor

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    Yes to pantsing an entire novel.
    Yes to writing in 1-3k increments as things hit me. Sometimes a little more.

    I think it helps keep thing fresh and unpredictable, compared
    to outlining. Though re-reading to keep the facts and continuity
    correct. Don't need to screw that part up. :p
     
  16. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, yes, this! Jotting down ideas as they come. Once one idea for a plot item, a bit of conversation or a character twist comes, lots of them do, and I try not to ever be too far from a notebook. This happens when I'm starting to write a story, but continues to happen all the way through as well. Sometimes big ideas can change a lot of the story. Smaller ideas can flesh it out.

    I have always maintained that thinking time is just as important as writing time. That's when my brain tends to be in a more creative mode. The writing itself is just 'getting it out there.' Whatever it is I want to get out there, though, usually comes to me when I least expect it.
     
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  17. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sounds very much like how I work... except the idea/note stage often goes on for a lot longer than a few days.

    So far with my WIP, I've:
    • spent five years trying to find a way in,
    • spent a few weeks doing notes/ideas,
    • wrote a full-length screenplay version,
    • put it aside for a year,
    • threw out all characters/situations, etc.
    • pantsed a 75,000-word novel version with all new characters (including a charming raccoon),
    • sat on it for almost two years,
    • threw everything/everyone out again,
    • another 3 months doing notes/ideas, and finally,
    • started working out timelines for the characters, one of whom has been alive for more than 6,000 years.
    All told, I've been working on this idea off and on for more than six years since 2009. And I have to write the damned thing so it'll go away!

    It'll either be a masterwork or so far removed from the original inspiration as to be complete donkey twaddle.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2017

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