Thursday, December 10, 2009

Pantser or Plodder?

Question for you Today:

Are you a 'Pantser' - a person who writes their books by the 'seat of their pants', or do you 'Plot' out your story?

If you plot it out, how much detail do you go into on your novel before you write the first actual word of your story?
Do you outline the entire story, or just a start, an end, a conflict, and the basic parts of the story?
Do you ouline each chapter, the contents of it, what each character does?
Do you use the 'Snowflake' Method?

If you are a 'Pantser', how do you guide your story and keep from writing your characters into a situation they cannot get out of?

What arguments can you give in support of whichever method you choose, or do you fall somewhere in the middle?


  1. I've written a 14-page outline for my 604+ page WIP.

    I don't want to make it sound like I live for plotting and hate all pantsers. Many very good novels were written by pantsers. I'm just not one of them. I have tried to write my same WIP before, but without an outline it drags on forever without any focus as to what the middle is going to be, much less what the end is going to be.
    When I outline, I don't have to write out exactly what each character does/says (I feel like that comes with actually WRITING THE STORY) but I do list, for each chapter and for each section within each chapter, what main things happen and what is supposed to be done or accomplished or set up or introduced by the end of the section or chapter.

    I have no idea what the "snowflake" method means.

  2. I too don't know what "snowflake" method is.
    In my first novel attempt--in NaNo-- I went the pantser route and I think it worked quite well for the challenge at hand. But now I'm going to have to go back and outline things and try to fill in holes and get better continuity I think.

  3. Hey guys!

    The Snowflake Method is a method developed by Randy Ingermanson to plot out a novel - The link I provided should give you a general Idea on how it works.

    It's a method of outlining that 'fleshes out' from just a few points (start, conflict, resolution) into many points as you flesh out the story, until you have a chapterwise outline that you can pretty well just 'fill in the blanks' for.

    By the time you get to the actual writing of the prose, the story is complete.

  4. MisterChris,

    Thanks for posting that article. As a prospective English teacher, I think that his method (if not the article itself) is a resource that I would like to keep around my classroom.

    Now that I've read his article, I want to revise my previous comment: I think I fall somewhere in between plodding and snow flaking. Ingermanson said, "I claim that that's how you design a novel -- You start small, then build stuff up until it looks like a story..."

    Ingermanson also said, "If you're like most people, you spend a long time thinking about your novel before you ever start writing... You start hearing the voices of different characters..." I find this to be really odd-- I have NEVER heard my characters' voices before I write dialogue. ...Just an odd idiosyncratic tidbit.

    Another idiosyncrasy of my own writing that Ingermanson's article has shed light on: I don't even know which minor characters are going to be in each section/chapter until they're typed onto the page!

    Ingermanson said, "About midway through a first draft, I usually take a breather and fix all the broken parts of my design documents." This reminds me of something that I do: After I write my outline (or at least, the first edition of my outline) and then start drafting my novel, I inevitably figure out at some point in time that the story contradicts itself or that I have messed something up earlier. (I hear that this happens to many writers). To fix this, I make a special section at the top of my outline (in a word processor, so I can always give myself more space as required) that we'll call "Mess-Ups." Here, I jot down where/what I've messed up and then continue drafting... and I *can* continue drafting and not have to worry about fixing those pesky (and time-consuming) mess-ups on the spot.

    Chris Shelley

  5. I start out with a plot, but my characters always protest. I listen to their voices in my head and write down what they say. I guess that makes me a plotter in theory but a pantser in practice.

    Thanks for adding me in Twitter!

    Radical Christian? Awesome! :-)