Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pirates, Pantsers, and Plotters

And don't be forgettin' today be International Talk Like a Pirate Day. 


Ye can learn more 'bout it here.

'N if ye need help translatin' into scurvy pirate, here be a few resources:
Herehere and here.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

From PowerPoint
I've tried. I really, really have tried.

I sit down at my computer. There story's there in my mind, and I'm going to do an outline. Just a simple outline. Nothing fancy. Nothing complicated. I can do that. Right? It's simple.

I stare at the monitor, my fingers poised.


I stand and stretch, get a drink, and come back.

I can do this. I'm organized and orderly in every other aspect of my life. For heaven's sake, my DVDs and spices are in alphabetical order!

The monitor stares back at me. The keyboard mocks me. Nothing comes. I've been at this for an hour, an hour of precious writing time and I have nothing to show for it.

Like a junky needing a fix, I have to do something, get it on paper. The story's there. It wants out. I've been dreaming scenes for days. Too many days. If I don't get it down, I'm going to lose it. I'm old that way.

From PowerPoint
Fine. What is I just write a little bit of the story? The beginning. Just a little and see if I can force an outline of some kind out there.

And I write. And write. And write.

It's thousands of words later, and I'm jazzed. The story's coming. I'm getting those scenes I've been dreaming about down finally.

Other things are happening that hadn't occurred to me before, taking me down different paths than what I've been dreaming about.

And I like the way it's going!

For me, once I'm actually in the writing, my creative juices just flow like crazy. It's like they feed off the starting ideas and blossom out like yeast fed some sugar (all right, I haven't have breakfast yet).

So, that's my problem. I keep hearing from authors who outline who talk about how much easier writing is if people will just plot things out first. I'm happy for them. I'm astounded I'm not one of them.

I don't just jump into a project blind. I have a psychological profile I do up for my main characters which helps me establish backstory and motivations. At lot of that stuff, however, grows as I write. Characters become important I hadn't even considered creating when I imagined the tale.

I use Dan Wells' 7 point story structure format. It's simple enough that I can get some basic stuff down that I know I want to happen without pinning me down too much.

I tried to outline once using 3x5 post-it notes. Got 35,000 words into the story and went in a completely different direction with the tale and negated all the rest of my cards. Stopped the story cold and it was months before I picked it up again.

For me, the writing happens in the edits. The sooner  I get it down on paper, the sooner I can do the real writing.

What about you? Are you a plotter or a panster? What's appealing to you about your chosen style?


  1. I'm a bit of both. I like to outline the key plot points and then outline the rest as I go. Like you, I'm an organized person and think I can outline the whole book. But for whatever reason, I stare at a blank screen.

  2. Arr!

    "Got 35,000 words into the story and went in a completely different direction with the tale"
    I'm told this happens with people who outline, too. You never know when something is going to come up in your head that will take your story off in a different way. It could be the result of a flash of inspiration or from logical thinking, but it happens (or so I hear; as a devoted wingman, I'm used to it).

  3. I outline a bit, get the basic idea and then just let the writing fly.

  4. Having a west country English accent people say I talk like a pirate every


  5. Argh, I be a bit of a pantser myself. None of that namby pamby plotting for this sea dog. Though I do like to know where to steer my ship in a storm, so I tends to know which port I'm sailing for as I travel the seven seas looking for plunder.

    Happy talk like a pirate day!

  6. I can't do the cards. I tried a few times and I hate them immensely. I love lists though and I'm a heavy outliner, but it's just events, not tons of substance. Maybe some lines of dialogue. I often wonder how you pantsers do it. :)

  7. I'm a total pantser. Every time I've even come close to outlining a story, the characters laugh hysterically and take me on a totally different journey. I've learned to tweak the inconsistencies in the editing.

    I'm also a linear writer. I start at the beginning and follow through to the end. We talked about this at our writers group and came to the conclusion that the reason writing future scenes didn't seem to work was because our characters grew from the time we wrote it to when it came time to insert that scene. Which always got rewritten.

    I say, use whatever gets the words out and the story written. :)

    Oh, and yo ho me maties. Aye, we'll be by for a bit o'ale this eve. lol


  8. I'm SUCH a pantser! I need to become a plotter!!!! And I can't believe it's pirate day again... feels like it happened two days ago...

  9. I'm more of a panster too. I write down a sense of the overall plot I want to do, but then as I start writing things always change anyway. I'm terrible at outlining!

    I cracked up about your DVDs and spices in alphabetical order LOL. :D

  10. I am very similar in that respect. I can write a novel in six to eight weeks, but then it will take me the rest of the year plus to re-write it. Somehow it works for me ...

    Thanks for dropping by my blog today. I was nice to see you Donna.

  11. I can't start a story unless I've outlined it. But once I'm writing, I'm pretty flexible when story ideas pop up:)

  12. Every person is different. Do what works for you.
    I have to outline. And create character profiles. My story would get lost otherwise.

  13. i plot, but thats me. if you dont, dont force it. jot scenes, write your dreams down and do what you do =)

    i start w/an idea, move on to a general outline and keep filling in details...a flower from a seed =)

  14. Every book is different for me. But none of them are good the first go around.

    Revise, revise, revise, and then revise some more...

  15. Avast me hearty! I do a light outline, but sometimes my characters hijack the thing and take it off the charts, matey. And sometimes here there be dragons. Sometimes they're alien space ships. I think it's silly to get regimented into one way of looking at the story, despite what it wants to be. Tell the true story, me landlubber...rofl

    I had to do the talk like a pirate thing today. I've got the flu and couldn't even get off the couch yesterday. Bleah!

  16. I plot, but I veer away from my outline a little bit since I get new ideas as I draft.


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