Author Topic: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids  (Read 1436 times)

Al Stevens

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Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« on: February 17, 2019, 04:21:11 AM »
This topic has been addressed elsewhere in writers discussion groups. This poll is taken as research for my WIP. I am interested in the counts, but comments, opinions, debates, and such, are welcome. I am also interested in how writers define for themselves the differences and similarities among the categories. And it's okay to posit that such pigeon-holing of writers is...whatever you think it is. Thanks in advance.
Genres: mystery, music, programming, science fiction, historical fiction


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Al Stevens is a retired author of computer programming books. For fifteen years he was a senior contributing editor and columnist for Dr. Dobb's Journal, a leading magazine for computer programmers. Al lives with his wife Judy and a menagerie of cats on Florida's Space Coast where he putters around in his workshop by day and plays piano and saxophone in his studio by night.
 

PJ Post

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #1 on: February 17, 2019, 05:03:50 AM »
I think the goal is to get to The End - by whatever path, or paths, necessary. For the record, I make it up as I go along - but, to be fair, that turns into a loose collection of outline-ish notes over time, such as: just before the final boss battle, remember to deal with that thing that happened at the place, with the girl...so as to tie all of those threads together and get everyone ready for the big pay-off, oh...wait...there's that other guy too...plant the seed for his emotional thingy...go back to chapter two and lay the groundwork...maybe something horrible?
 
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cecilia_writer

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #2 on: February 17, 2019, 05:19:35 AM »
I think the goal is to get to The End - by whatever path, or paths, necessary. For the record, I make it up as I go along - but, to be fair, that turns into a loose collection of outline-ish notes over time, such as: just before the final boss battle, remember to deal with that thing that happened at the place, with the girl...so as to tie all of those threads together and get everyone ready for the big pay-off, oh...wait...there's that other guy too...plant the seed for his emotional thingy...go back to chapter two and lay the groundwork...maybe something horrible?

My method is uncannily similar to this.
Cecilia Peartree - Woman of Mystery
 

APP

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2019, 06:49:49 AM »
Before I start writing, I create a fairly detailed outline.

Once I actually start writing, I often deviate from some sections of my outline. Why? Because as I write, new ideas occur to me that I'd never thought about when I created the outline. Overall, though, I try to follow my outline.

ETA: Example, on my current work, I've decided one of my secondary characters deserves her own POV.
« Last Edit: February 17, 2019, 06:55:10 AM by APP »
 

Arkturor

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #4 on: February 17, 2019, 07:39:26 AM »
If I try to outline the plot in any significant manner, I then feel as though there is no point in writing it. I have to sit down and begin writing with an idea, writing straight into a fomatted Word template so I don't feel overwhelmed with correcting formatting as I go. That is why I have 15 or more drafts, because the first 5-10 are getting the storyline, continuity and characters right, before I proceed with editing grammar and refining. But then, I am such a prawny author that I can hardly expect anyone to take a leaf out of my book. Pun intended. :hehe
 

APP

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2019, 08:20:33 AM »
These days I try to write finished prose, which means my first draft should be very close to my final one. Now my writing could go a lot faster if I weren't striving for finished prose, but I don't like having to do multiple drafts anymore. Of course, it took me a while before I reached the point where I could do this.

My normal approach is to complete my first draft, followed by my last draft to catch what I may have missed the first time around. I then send the finished copy off to my editor.
 

Tom Wood

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Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2019, 08:42:58 AM »
I'm an architect - we plan things. To me, pantsing a story is like loading a bunch of bricks into an airplane and flying it up and throwing them out the window with the expectation that they will form a building when they hit the ground.

 

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Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2019, 09:11:43 AM »
I'm an architect - we plan things. To me, pantsing a story is like loading a bunch of bricks into an airplane and flying it up and throwing them out the window with the expectation that they will form a building when they hit the ground.




 :icon_lol2:


Outliner here.  I write a detailed synopsis before starting the first draft.  While writing the first draft, I take notes about things I want to change during revision.  The second draft is basically just incorporating those notes.
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Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books]

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Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2019, 09:20:19 AM »
I love to draw floorplans for houses and elaborate designs for the garden...but I am a total pantser when it comes to writing.  I've tried (repeatedly) to use an outline. I was never any good with them in school either.

Life would be easier with an outline! I'm not suggesting they're bad.  At all.  I just can't seem to use one.  This last story is based on five photos I'm using as covers.  That's my story idea.  (shakes head)  I write myself into corners all the time, but I guess the thrill of pulling myself out of them overrides my desire to be organized.

Maybe that's it.  Are outliners more organized?  I am NOT showing you a photo of my desk. LOL

ETA: I can provide floorplans for all the houses in my stories.  :shrug
     
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LilyBLily

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2019, 10:29:14 AM »
All I know is who a couple of main characters are. Iíve been surprised by some amazing stuff that just flew out of my head and onto the page. Sure, I think up some stuff in the shower, but the cool details are the surprises on the page. Thatís exciting.

I think it happens this way for me because as Iím searching for motivations and character backstory my brain supplies crazy twists. And the twists explain why the characters have done what they did in the past or why theyíre doing certain things now. So it all flows.
 
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munboy

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #10 on: February 17, 2019, 10:56:51 AM »
I'm a 90/10 split. I outline my stories, but I also free write to flesh out an idea. Once I have a good idea of where the story's going and who the characters are, I'll stop and outline the entire book.
 

elleoco

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #11 on: February 17, 2019, 11:03:46 AM »
I consider myself an outliner, but I don't believe outliner and pantser is usually A vs. B. So, I say, "I'm an outliner. I write a sentence or two for each chapter. Sometimes for a scene." Someone else says, "I'm a pantser. All I do is write sentence or two for plot points." Sure, there are big differences at the extremes. Some outliners do detailed outlines, and some pantsers just start out with a character in a situation and start typing, but I bet if you could do a humongous survey where each person responding described what he/she does in detail, most would be somewhere in the middle, what you call hybrids.

The Bass Bagwhan

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #12 on: February 17, 2019, 11:46:27 AM »
Bearing in mind that all my novels are inspired by a single "lightbulb moment" idea, and that is next developed into a premise so that I won't grind to a halt 40K words later, my horror novels are all pretty much pantsed. Likewise, I'm often impressed by the ideas that come from my own writing.

But I've written several crime and mystery novels, and I think these need to be outlined and planned. Crime readers expects the red herrings to be well and truly red, and the mysteries properly mysterious, and can be harsh critics of too-fortuitous plot devices and "get out of jail" moments, because you've pantsed yourself into a corner.

So I'd say this question is a little genre-related, if that makes sense.
 

Hopscotch

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #13 on: February 17, 2019, 02:40:37 PM »
If I try to plot, then the story is told and dead to me and I cannot write it.  I pants, edit heavily as I go, and enjoy all of it.  That said, about 2/3 thru any ms I get an idea where the story will end and often jump ahead to write the cataclysmic last scene.  Sometimes that scene stays in the story and I'm happily surprised.  Plotters are strange creatures to me.  But I say whatever works for you, works.
 
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Simon Haynes

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #14 on: February 17, 2019, 03:21:10 PM »
Some of my novels lent themselves to plotting, while others would have suffered from it. The more 'serious' I'm trying to write, the more I need a plot outline.

I would never try to write a thriller or a murder mystery by the seat of my pants.

On the other hand, when it came time to write my fantasy parodies, the fun came from creating endless new characters and tossing them into the mix to see what happened. (I think the trilogy has over 40 characters, many with their own viewpoint scenes.)

I love the freedom and sheer fun of writing without a safety net, but it doesn't work in all situations. I also like to switch between plotting/not to keep things fresh and new.
 

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Tom Wood

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Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #15 on: February 17, 2019, 05:00:57 PM »
I like the hero's journey framework. So in a way, my stories are pre-plotted. In his book The Writer's Journey Chris Vogler condensed Joseph Campbell into a framework that screenwriters could use to tell a story. Then Blake Snyder took that and condensed it even more in his Save the Cat books. What I've found is that the 'dark moment of the soul' scene is the most important scene of the entire story. I have to solve that scene before the rest of the story makes any sense. It's the scene where the hero becomes woke to the fact that they are wrong. If you chart a story on the face of an analog clock, it happens at about 7:30 in Act 2B.

So I do a lot of plotting/blueprinting (Lisa Cron) to figure out the hero's actual journey from broken to healed.  James Scott Bell even wrote a book about this approach - Writing Your Novel From the Middle. Works for me, but I know we all have our own hero's journey to take on the way to tell our stories.
 

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Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #16 on: February 17, 2019, 07:40:15 PM »
I like the hero's journey framework. So in a way, my stories are pre-plotted. In his book The Writer's Journey Chris Vogler condensed Joseph Campbell into a framework that screenwriters could use to tell a story.


I also like Dan Harmon's condensed version.  He uses examples from Die Hard, so naturally I'm inclined to pay attention.   :icon_mrgreen:


Quote
What I've found is that the 'dark moment of the soul' scene is the most important scene of the entire story.


"She's heard me say 'I love you' a thousand times.  She never heard me say 'I'm sorry.'"


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Tom Wood

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Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #17 on: February 17, 2019, 08:17:43 PM »
I like the hero's journey framework. So in a way, my stories are pre-plotted. In his book The Writer's Journey Chris Vogler condensed Joseph Campbell into a framework that screenwriters could use to tell a story.


I also like Dan Harmon's condensed version.  He uses examples from Die Hard, so naturally I'm inclined to pay attention.   :icon_mrgreen:


Quote
What I've found is that the 'dark moment of the soul' scene is the most important scene of the entire story.


"She's heard me say 'I love you' a thousand times.  She never heard me say 'I'm sorry.'"




Perfect example!

Also this one, especially at about the 9:05 point.:




And this scene:





« Last Edit: February 18, 2019, 09:32:48 AM by Tom Wood »
 

123mlh

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #18 on: February 18, 2019, 12:40:53 AM »
I know the main character, what incites the story, and what kind of story I'm telling. I also usually know how I want it to end. The rest happens on the page although I will have ideas as I write and might jot down a brief one-page outline as I'm working through the book but that usually changes as I write so gets torn up and thrown out and rewritten every couple of days.
 

dikim

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #19 on: February 18, 2019, 01:25:10 AM »
Everyone plots to some extent, even if you just work out a character on the setting. The difference is when you start writing.  Personally I use a step outline but I don't always have all the details worked out straight away. That results in a plot, write, plot, write ... approach.

I couldn't use an outline at first because I confused it with a chapter by chapter breakdown of the plot. But that acts like a straightjacket, keeping you on the original track you worked out even if you think of something better. Step outlining is much more flexible because you plot the steps of the story and completely ignore chapter breaks until you do the actual writing.  I write much better since I discovered the power of step outlining and write far fewer drafts.


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angelapepper

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #20 on: February 18, 2019, 02:34:42 AM »
Because I write murder mysteries now, I plot.

When I wrote romance, I didn't plot, and wrote twice as fast.
 

Maggie Ann

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #21 on: February 18, 2019, 03:38:17 AM »
When I'm writing a historical, I research the background events and work up a timeline. It strictly covers those events and does not involve the story or characters at all. Some might call that partial plotting and they could be right. I just call it my timeline.

When I'm writing romance, it's strictly pantsing. I go in with a character name and sometimes what they do for a living, but that's it.
« Last Edit: February 18, 2019, 08:12:42 AM by Maggie Ann »
           
 

cecilia_writer

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #22 on: February 18, 2019, 03:59:17 AM »
I write mostly murder mysteries in a series, using a large ensemble cast, so I really just start with an idea, work out what the first chapter is about and then let the characters run with it. The outline gradually emerges from the mist as I go along and I have lots of notes as described above.
Cecilia Peartree - Woman of Mystery
 

LD

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #23 on: February 18, 2019, 03:04:30 PM »
I'm an architect - we plan things. To me, pantsing a story is like loading a bunch of bricks into an airplane and flying it up and throwing them out the window with the expectation that they will form a building when they hit the ground.


Haha!  I'm in the field too, but I'm totally a pantser.  I'm totally aware that this goes against how I normally approach other areas of life, so I don't know how or why, but it works for me.
 

LD

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #24 on: February 18, 2019, 03:08:54 PM »
I'm a pantser.  I also write out of order.  A line pops in my head and I build around it.  Whatever scenes come to me, I write it, then  about halfway through the total word count (of the book), I put them in order to check pacing so I know what else I need to add.
 

123mlh

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #25 on: February 19, 2019, 02:31:25 AM »
Haha!  I'm in the field too, but I'm totally a pantser.  I'm totally aware that this goes against how I normally approach other areas of life, so I don't know how or why, but it works for me.

George RR Martin actually uses the terms "architect" and "gardener" instead of plotter and pantser, but not sure which use of "architect" the OP on that one was using.
 

Keith Ward

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #26 on: February 19, 2019, 02:50:35 AM »
I've tried outlining, but the story never comes to me. I'll make a note here and there if something hits me when I'm not writing, but usually I have to write to see where the story goes.

dgcasey

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Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #27 on: February 19, 2019, 02:54:00 AM »
I use a program called Timeline (https://sourceforge.net/projects/thetimelineproj/) for my outlines. I will begin a story by just tossing ideas onto the timeline and then moving them around to where I think they need to be. These can be adjusted as time goes on. When I get the gist of the story settled into the timeline, I'll start writing. I will usually have about 50-70% of the timeline (outline) finished, but it's enough to get me started. As I go along, I have the timeline program open, alongside my document and I add and move things around as I write. As I reach the 70% mark in the novel, my timeline is pretty much finished, though still open for revision.

I find I lose interest in a story if I don't know where I'm going when I'm writing it.

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Tom Wood

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Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #28 on: February 19, 2019, 03:00:17 AM »
Haha!  I'm in the field too, but I'm totally a pantser.  I'm totally aware that this goes against how I normally approach other areas of life, so I don't know how or why, but it works for me.

George RR Martin actually uses the terms "architect" and "gardener" instead of plotter and pantser, but not sure which use of "architect" the OP on that one was using.

I'm a licensed architect.
 

Evil Entity

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #29 on: February 19, 2019, 06:55:04 AM »
 

DougM

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #30 on: February 21, 2019, 07:26:49 AM »
My brain doesn't start until it hits the keyboard. I have to pants.

Where I do outline, I use the broadest strokes. Here's the outline to my most recent novel.

Chapter 1: Intro (10k)
Chatpers 2-7: Stuff (10k per chapter)
Chapter 8: Big Boss Battle (10k)
 

Tom Wood

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Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #31 on: February 21, 2019, 07:32:41 AM »
 

Count Jeffula

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Denise

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #33 on: February 21, 2019, 07:52:03 AM »
I'm 50-50, and there wasn't an option for that.

I know the characters, the premise, the main twist(s) and the ending, but I make up the details as I go. Something else that happens is that sometimes I plan a scene a certain way, and when the characters get there they have different ideas. I follow along.  :shrug Still, I start with a general idea of the whole plot, but it's super loose.

I don't know how some people simply start writing, from a scene, for example, and make up as they go along. I think I need to know that I material for a story.

I've studied plotting and structure, but I haven't tried to outline a story according to structure. I might try and see how it goes.

That said, once I decided I'd plot a novel in details. I think I have some ten handwritten pages with unreadable, weird notes, and I've never started writing it.  :icon_rofl:

You guys mentioned GRRM, but the truth is that the stuff that he had outlined (we saw in the leaked outline) was really good. Anything beyond that got kind of lost.

I find the analogy with gardening very weird. Gardening requires a lot of planning. If you just let stuff grow it's going to be horrible.
« Last Edit: February 21, 2019, 07:55:58 AM by Denise »
 

Edward M. Grant

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #34 on: February 22, 2019, 04:38:26 AM »
Pantser, but I usually have some idea of where the plot is going by the time I finish the first act. Once the main characters and conflict are set up, I can usually tell how it has to end and just have to get the story there somehow.
 

She-la-te-da

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #35 on: February 24, 2019, 09:45:27 PM »
I don't consider knowing some bits of the story as outlining. I think it's the muse teasing me so I'll start writing. If I outline, I lose interest as I've already "told" the story to myself. I have sat down and just started writing from a basic idea and let the story come. I haven't written myself into a corner yet (again, that muse is working it all out). Some things I've written and thought it was dumb and I was going to have to go back and fix it, and then I'll write something else, often chapters later, and it will all make sense.

I edit as I go, usually not changing much except typos and punctuation. I will sometimes rewrite a sentence, or move paragraphs around (just did that a while ago), but it's nothing major and that's the only edit I'll do.

In the end, it doesn't matter what any one of us does. We each need to try different things and find what works, then do that thing over and over.
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spin52

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #36 on: February 28, 2019, 07:34:42 AM »
If I try to plot, then the story is told and dead to me and I cannot write it.  I pants, edit heavily as I go, and enjoy all of it.  That said, about 2/3 thru any ms I get an idea where the story will end and often jump ahead to write the cataclysmic last scene.  Sometimes that scene stays in the story and I'm happily surprised.  Plotters are strange creatures to me.  But I say whatever works for you, works.
That sounds a lot like me. I write mysteries, so I usually know who the victim is, and even sometimes, who killed them. I have been known to fool myself and change murderers along the way, which is annoying because then I have to go back and stick some more or different clues in. I have also been known to write a dramatic scene for the penultimate chapter and then work my way up to it. And for one book, I wrote a romantic final scene before I even started the book, because I felt my characters really deserved it.
     

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Edward M. Grant

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #37 on: March 01, 2019, 03:29:27 AM »
Based on interviews I've read, it seems to be common for mystery writers to write the story with no idea whodunnit, then decide on the guilty party right at the end and go back to add the one vital clue that proves theydidit.
 

cecilia_writer

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #38 on: March 01, 2019, 04:20:54 AM »
If I try to plot, then the story is told and dead to me and I cannot write it.  I pants, edit heavily as I go, and enjoy all of it.  That said, about 2/3 thru any ms I get an idea where the story will end and often jump ahead to write the cataclysmic last scene.  Sometimes that scene stays in the story and I'm happily surprised.  Plotters are strange creatures to me.  But I say whatever works for you, works.
That sounds a lot like me. I write mysteries, so I usually know who the victim is, and even sometimes, who killed them. I have been known to fool myself and change murderers along the way, which is annoying because then I have to go back and stick some more or different clues in. I have also been known to write a dramatic scene for the penultimate chapter and then work my way up to it. And for one book, I wrote a romantic final scene before I even started the book, because I felt my characters really deserved it.
Yes, that happens to me fairly often (I too write mysteries).
Cecilia Peartree - Woman of Mystery
 

NCB

Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #39 on: March 02, 2019, 08:47:01 PM »
I'll qualify this up front by saying that I've yet to publish anything longer than 50K words, but I'm definitely a pantser.

I have a WIP which will end up being around 80K, it's a story I've carried around and refined in my head for years and for the first time ever I did a detailed outline, to the point I have two or three paragraphs or sometimes more for each chapter. I just need to expand this out which is pretty easy to do, I can't do it, I'm bored with it and find other stuff to work on instead. The passion for this has gone for me although I do still feel it's a decent story that people will enjoy.

I also have a trilogy which is seeing a completely different approach, I have an overall story arc that I think maybe is what will happen, probably not, I've written scenes and chapters from all across what will probably end up being three decent sized books, I'm not completely sure how they will all connect together yet or how much will actually make it into the final cut but whilst it's probably a very inneficient way to write I'm loving the process and loving the story.

In terms of words on the page I can't see me doing much more than the briefest of outlines in the future, aside from anything else whenever I plan anything it gets binned by the halfway stage as the story went off in it's own direction.
 

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Re: Plotters, pantsers, hybrids
« Reply #40 on: March 03, 2019, 10:33:18 AM »
I outline in detail before I start.