Monday, September 20, 2010

Seat of the Pants or Plotter?

It's no secret. I'm a Seat-of-the-Pants Writer, and a card carrying member of their club.

I must confess, however, that I'm a bit jealous of plotters and how they zip through writing their books. What a pleasurable experience to know your middle won't fall flat like a bad souffle.

Is there a happy middle ground where SOTP and plotting can co-exist in the heart of a writer? Where can I find such a prototype? Duh. Where do I go for wisdom in all areas of my life? God's Word and prayer have always brought the answers I need.

One of my greatest fears with plotting: the squelching of creativity. Yet when I look at God's Word, it says He had a plan from before the foundation of the world. The history of man as seen in the Bible is a stunning tribute to God's creativity. Like Him, we are faced with people taking unwanted twists and turns and an enemy, who wants to destroy the finished product. Yet, He keeps the plan, the desired end before Him, while bringing redemption to our disasters and foiling the enemy's agenda.

Somehow, some way, I'll plan my books without it turning into a lifeless memorial to my knowledge. Excellence shall be married to His life-changing Spirit that fills out the details and the nuances of story. How will this happen? I don't know, but I'll follow His path. I don't need to stress about it because I'm on assignment from Him.

How do you keep the creativity flowing if you're a plotter? Pantsers, please share your insights on the issue. Do you think plotting and pantsing are two sides of the same coin? Readers: What kind of stories get under your skin, and bring transformation to your life? I'd like to know.

31 comments:

Diane said...

He is so big and we are so small. He will get it out there through us if we keep our focus on Him. :O)

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

I am a panster. I tried the plotting program and failed mostly because I ended up writing lots of the story in the outline instead of sticking to the facts in an orderly manner. I let my characters and story jump onto the page and take off and I follow!

I pray that the Lord leads me in the direction I should go with the story and the message He wants me to share.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Diane -

I think we get into trouble when we focus on one extreme or the other. Some folks opt totally for creativity without getting the nuts and bolts right. Others get stuck in their heads, and lose that spark.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Donna -

Like you, I've tried so many plotting programs. While they've been helpful in areas, I'll always lean in the direction of pantsing.

What I'm suggesting in this post is a combination of the two. When we strike a balance between pantsing and plotting, we get the best aspects of both.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Lynn said...

He has given us our unique strengths. When writing essay, I like structuring and come out with a fine piece. But never did structure techniqes for my short stories that were always needing more and more. Finally, I woke up! Why can't I apply similar techniques for essay as I do for short story? So I picked up a book on how to plot, and plan to plot my next project. I'll let you know how it goes!

Lynn said...

Why can't I apply similar techniques for short story as I do for essay? That's what I meant. Not the opposite as written in the original posts! Haven't finished my coffee yet!

DenaNetherton said...

I think plotting is essential, but it's not as if you can't diverge in your story journey once in a while if one of your characters suddenly jumps up in the back seat and shouts, "Stop! Take this road. I want to see what's around the corner."

Karen Lange said...

I see myself as more of a plotter, but often write otherwise. It just depends on the project, and I am learning as I go. Good topic:)
Blessings,
Karen

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Lynn -

Yes, we can apply what we've learned in one genre to other types of writing.

I have a tough time with plotting. Beyond knowing my characters well and knowing the beginning and end, I feel like I'm in a straight jacket.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Dena -

Thanks for commenting.

While I'm a pantser, I do have some idea where I'm going. Perhaps my story is more in my head versus plotted out on paper.

I'm aiming for a combination of plotter and pantser. I still haven't found a method that's a comfortable fit.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Karen -

I'm going the trial and error route myself. At least, I'm learning what doesn't work for me.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Jeanette Levellie said...

I plan my story to a small degree, then I fly with it, panting most of the way. I don't know what I'd do if I were to write a novel--I'd probably try to plan a little more. But I'll never be as detailed as some, with charts and graphs and lists. That would squelch my muse and make her cry in pain.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I'm a card carrying pantser too, Susan. I've tried being more organized, but I just don't have it in me. :-)

Thanks so much for your regular comments on my blog - I truly appreciate you!

Jean Fischer said...

I'm more a seat of the pants writer than a plotter, although, like you Susan, I often have the plot in my head. I tend to think in pictures, so I visualize my plot and then fill in the blanks as I write.

Good topic.

Blessings.
Jean

kristen said...

I too am jealous of plotters. I've attempted to get a little balance by writing the first draft SOTP, then writing all my scenes down and making sure they fit together. This inevitably leads to new ideas that I then SOTP add, and it all starts over again. I'll tell you how it all turns out if I ever get done!!

I love it when you said, "I'll plan my books without it turning into a lifeless memorial to my knowledge." Unfortunately, I have one of those in my file cabinet.

Britt Mitchell said...

I'm a SOTP writer.

I start with an idea, a character's name, a location, and then I just go with it. I look for inspiration as I write.

At the same time, I've considered incorporating a little more plotting in future manuscripts. I thought about writing down my characters, their names, roles, traits, etc., along with a flexible chapter outline.

In the end, I'll never have the patience to take a lot of time plotting an entire book block-by-block. Do I spend time on research? Yes. Making big notebooks of all the who, what, when, and wheres? No.

~Britt

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jen -

I feel the same way. When I try to plot every scene, every detail, I can't breathe. I can't flow with the story.

Last night, I was getting some scenes in my sleep. It's not unusual for me to get clarity when my mind is unencumbered with the busy-ness of the day.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Shannon -

I think each person needs to find the method that works for them. I'm trying to strike a balance because I see the advantages of both plotting and pantsing.

I'm praying that God will show me through His Word the "how to."

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jean -

Like you, I'm visual. I see scenes and action in my head.

All those years of daydreaming as a kid are paying off. LOL!

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Kristen -

Trial and error is part of the learning process. I'm discovering what works and what doesn't for me. I don't think any writer can skip that step, whether plotter or pantser.

While I want my books to be entertaining, I also want them to impact people's lives. If they don't, I've failed in what God's called me to do.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Britt -

Your comment, as well as others, made me smile. We pantsers are so much alike.

From your blog, I see your passion for research and getting the details right. I love digging and have several "go-to" people, who help me with cultural stuff.

Just because we're pantsers doesn't mean we don't work hard. We do!

Blessings,
Susan :)

Jill Kemerer said...

It's easy to forget that God knows everything when I'm dealing with the little details of life.

I am a plotter, but my books always surprise me. I'll be typing, and completely unexpected twists just churn onto the page. I don't lose the magic of writing by plotting.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jill -

You've expressed what I want to achieve: plot, but retain the creative spark.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Patti Lacy said...

I'm definitely a combo!
My agent demands a detailed synopsis, but since we sold the book, I've made several major changes, including a pregnancy...Oh, I won't tell you any more!!

It's a SECRET!

Will miss you for awhile. Am curtailing my blog visits for an 11/15 deadline. Yep, writing a whole book, plus editing another. Sure would love you to pop over and encourage me with your sweet words from time to time.

Blessings,
Patti

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Patti -

Thanks for letting me know you'll be working on deadline. I'll be stopping in as usual. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Faith Imagined said...

I plot a little in my mind, but I never do an outline. I call myself a "reshaper." I reshape at the tale-end, which probably amounts to the same amount of time as plotters do in the beginning...so it's a wash!

quietspirit said...

Susan:
I am a blend writer. I start out with an idea but it's never enough. I outlined a story once and got through the ideas way early and needed to add to the story. So, I belong in both camps.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Alisa -

Reshaper - that's a new term. It has a nice ring to it. We pantsers do end up with lots of edits.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Quiet Spirit -

I ran into the same problem. When I attempted plotting, I ran out of steam early.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Sandra Heska King said...

I love how you turned to scripture and God's creativity and ultimate plan. I can't think of a better example. :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Sandy -

Since He's the Creator, it makes sense to go to the ultimate expert. :)

Blessings,
Susan