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« Simple and interesting. Advice to a young writer. | Main | So who do you sound like? »
Sunday
Nov272016

Pants or no Pants... that is the question.

 

 

Settle down, we're not talking pantaloons, trousers, or skinny jeans. A while back I came across the distinction of two different kinds of writers: Pantsers and Plotters.

Something I nabbed off the net best describes the difference:

Simply put, a plotter is someone who plans out their novel before they write it. A pantser is someone who, “flies by the seat of their pants,” meaning they don’t plan out anything, or plan very little. Some people call themselves “plantsers,” which means they’re in a little of both. In reality, most people are plantsers, but some tend to lean heavily to one side.

(Thanks to thewritepractice)

Hmmm, so which way do I lean? Or lean heavily - hey, is that a weight joke?" Let's not go there. I'm pretty much always a pantsers until I run into the perennial pantser problem (the PPP): oh shit, I wrote myself into another corner.

And just to add, the title of this post has to do with that feeling when you get into that corner that everyone can see you sitting there, with nothing to say, and wearing nothing but your tighty-whiteys. For god's sake man, put on some trousers and be decent! There might be kids reading.

Okay, I digress... weirdly.

Anyway... as much as I love the thrill of never knowing what comes next, the danger is you start going down a path that seems very cool and twisty, and then proceeds to get darker, foggier, murkier... and you get the idea. While over at Mr. Plotter's house, he's just completed his third novel this week because he knew exactly how that sucker went, chapter by chapter. Sigh. I just can't do it. I've tried. Damn that Plotter and his efficient ways.

A couple of my fave pantsers Joe R. Lansdale and Stephen King swear by the pantser motto - or so they say in interviews. Now, they are both hugely prolific, and probably have become masters of getting in and out of writing corners. Or like most of us, they simply bang their head against the keyboard until something emerges.

I don't want to run down my plotter pals (PP's), as they are way more efficient and professional in their techniques. Or so I am surmising. I am guessing that a lot of sci-fi, fantasy world-builder type authors have to be plotters. You can't just land on a planet and start shooting stuff, or eating stuff. Oh wait, that is the plot of most of the first generation Star Trek episodes... so maybe you can start doing that.

In truth, I'll admit to a bit of plotting (plansters alert) while writing my novel, Surf City Acid Drop. Even though, the novel originally was released serial fiction style on this blog, I did sketch a few scenes ahead of wherever I was in the story. I am currently working on the sequel to that novel, and I'm doing a bit of the same. I love the thrill of writing like your hair is on fire and only words can put it out (image above: the true pantser way). But in planning crime fiction, I need to be a few steps ahead of my protag, just to lessen the amount of corners and road blocks that I create for myself.

I haven't mentioned George Saunders yet, so it seems like about that time. My hero of late is a known pantser - though, I don't think I've heard him use the term. For him it is about a deep listening to a story, both to know where it going, and to know if it's any good. In an interview he decribed the process like watching crystals under a microscope, if you let them grow, they could turn into the most beautiful formations. I'm paraphrasing the quote, but basically it was about letting the subconscious be your guide - at least in the first draft. Then Saunders goes through 100 drafts (I am never sure if that is hyperbole), to hone the story into that perfect vision of what grew under the microscope.

I guess I am sort of in that plantsers camp - yet leaning heavily on the pantsers side. I think it was Lansdale who said that he'd totally bored by plotting. Why would you want to know everything that has happened before you wrote it?

So, I'm headed for those corners. Hopefully I can get better at writing my way out of them.

Here's a seasonal bedtime story written and read by George Saunders to Stephen Colbert.


 

 

 

 

 

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