Blessed be, all! We’re underway at Camp NaNo, and things so far are going swimmingly in the draft. I still have about thirty days to finish the story or at least get 80k of it done, and I’m on track for that currently.
Today’s topic comes from one of my writing kiddos. She’s working her way through Stephen King’s On Writing again, and it occurred to her that, even though she loves this book and finds that it, in general, has good advice, she disagrees with his writing method. Stephen King is a hardcore pantser. He starts with a question or a concept (What would happen if a mother and son were trapped in their car by a rabid dog with no help in sight?) and dives directly into the draft with no further development or planning.
Rachel cannot do that. She needs a structure, a plan, which King calls stifling to the creative process. For her, though, it’s the process of making the plan that helps the story feel alive. It helps her create a roadmap for the world and flesh out the characters, their goals, and their relationships.
For myself, I fall somewhere in between. I like to thoroughly build out my characters and my world before I start, but I prefer to only have the basic gist of the flow of the plot while still leaving room for my characters to surprise me. Too much structure and I feel boxed in or bored. Too little and I find myself paralyzed by just how many roads I could take.
Most writers, I think, are some combination of plotting and pantsing. It’s also important to note that some will vary by the project. I have heard of stories that vehemently defy any attempt to plot them but fall together effortlessly when pantsed. I’ve heard of tangled messes that lay down in neat rows when plotted. There isn’t a right or wrong way to do it, just what you need as a writer and what works for the particular project in front of you. It’s all a matter of knowing how to narrow down your process to find the way to do this specific story.