Between Plotting and Pantsing

I have written here in the past about writing as a pantser and my attempt at becoming a plotter, and what I have found is that what works best for me is something between the two. I know there is a lot of talk about plotting and pantsing and many writers try to fit into one mold or the other or struggle to find their fit, so I am going to share my writing process in hopes of helping other writers who might find it more comfortable somewhere in between.

When I began my current WIP, I wrote down my two main characters’ (protagonists) physical descriptions, personality traits and their back stories. I did the same thing for my antagonist. Then I found some great sheets, that are FREE from a great website for writers:  Writers Helping Writers in their “Tools for Writers” section, called “Reverse Backstory Tool” and the “Character Pyramid” which I found helpful and not overwhelming, and I filled one of each of those out for my two main protagonists and my antagonist. I also wrote down the main plot and conflicts that I knew I wanted to include in the story.

Since I have decided that clean historical romantic fiction is the genre I am passionate about writing, I also did a little bit of research in regard to  the setting: historical time period and the real life towns that would be mentioned in my story and that would be home to my main characters; and into the life of some real life people who did the job I wanted my main male character to do so that I could make him as realistic as possible, and so, of course I also had to research that particular job. This sounds like a lot of work and plotting, but I didn’t feel that way, and writing something historical requires historical accuracy. I enjoyed the research almost as much as I enjoy the writing.

After that, I began my writing. In the midst of  working on this novel, I participated in two writer retreats where we did a couple of cool exercises that gave me a bit more insight into my main male character. I have also attended one writers’ conference, where I spoke with two published authors and shared a portion of my writing and they gave me helpful feedback. I am also a part of two different critique groups where I frequently share a piece of this novel for feedback. All of this feed back helps me to improve the story, and think about what I might be missing, which led me to contact a museum for more information about the historical aspects of my story (you can read about this here.)

I have also had to pause to research a few more things I needed to know about horses and riding and caring for horses. So, as you can see, because I do most of my writing as a pantser, I end up having to occasionally pause to research something I didn’t think about or anticipate before I began writing. Also, just because knowing that I have mistakes or missing parts in what I’ve already written, I cannot continue writing without fixing, changing and/or adding as needed during my writing sessions, so that interrupts my writing as well, but I’d much rather take care of those things as soon as possible and not have to go back and do ALL of those edits after finishing the entire novel. Taking care of it in bits and pieces is much less overwhelming to me. That’s why I submit to critique groups.

Some say that I am creating extra work or that it takes a lot more time to write the way that I do with these interruptions, but I don’t see how it takes any more time than all of the plotting some people do, and then writing the entire novel, and then going back and having to edit the whole thing. I think if a plotter and someone like me actually wrote down our time for the entire process, it really wouldn’t be that much different, assuming we are writing the same genre.

I hope that this information will be helpful for at least one of you out there.  Let me know if you’ve found it helpful or would like more information on any of this by dropping a comment in the comment box below.

Happy writing!

4 thoughts on “Between Plotting and Pantsing

  1. Whether it is outlining your story or letting your characters go as the wish, Whether the story is plot driven or character driven,whether to describe characters and scenes in detail or allow readers to form their own pictures, whether to embrace adverbs or avoid them, whether to follow rules or break them, the answer is usually “somewhere in between.”
    An expert fishing guide used to tell his clients, “The fish are either out in deep water or in close to shore, or somewhere in between.”


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