Sorry if you clicked over to find yet another post on the whole plotting vs pantzing debate. This post does not involve an intricate plotting system using Play-doh, pennies, and popsicle sticks that I invented to craft the perfect novel (even though I tried with no success).
But I am a plotter through and through. I outline. I take notes. I dream. And my creativity is at its best when I have an idea of where I am going. So, why didn’t I apply plotting to real life? I must have had a lapse of judgement or maybe it was the cold, I don’t know.
We took the kids skiing this past week to a mountain we’d never skied before. I’m so used to going to a mountain that I know, arriving at the top, and choosing a random path.
Well, I hadn’t skied with my youngest cutie son in a while, so I mistakenly trusted my husband’s judgement about taking the chairlift to the top of the mountain on the first run. And, I didn’t plan.
Wise Hubbie: “Why don’t we take a look at the trail map before we go down.”
Oh so foolish me: “Nah, we’ll just take a green (easy trail). No problem.”
I decided to take a trail “by the seat of my pants”. I mean, the trail was marked with a green circle. It should have stayed green the whole way down!
Part way down, the green changed to a blue square – a slightly steeper, harder trail not meant for beginners. I cheered my son on and then watched as his careful snowplowing and carving turned to sheer panic and he lost all control.
Thank God there were no trees. His skis slammed into a snowbank, his ski boots popped out, and he completed a flip worthy of Gold medalist Shaun White (almost). Then, he landed face down in the icy snow.
Tramautized and crying, it then took him an hour to get down the slopes.
Lesson learned. I’m sticking to plotting.
Do you find that how you approach your writing is a carry-over from how your approach life? Are you a plotter or a pantzer?
(My son is fine. A few scratches, but no emotional scars.)
I have had so many responses on my blog the past few weeks about not plotting, not doing outlines, it obstructs their creativity. I totally believe this, but you are one of the first structured people I have come across. Do you find you are generally structured in other areas of your life, excluding skiing. I am structured in life, kinda, but I am creative too, kinda. I just have a hard time balancing the two and getting any work done. Any hints, secrets, or advice?
I’m a pantser. With my first draft, anyway. But it’s only after letting something stew in my brain for a long time. Then during revisions, I pull out all the plotting tools I can.
I start off plotting, but it never works out the way I thought. Sometimes, I think you learn more by going down the blue hill.
Jon- I’m sure you’ve gotten comments especially with all your posts on the Snowflake, which is the ultimate plotting tool! And in some areas of my life I’m really structured, but in other areas I’m not. It totally depends.
Heather And Terry – Plotting doesn’t work for a lot of people. And I do believe every writer works differently. I might experiment around with voice before I plot but not more than a page. Though, I’m sure plotting goes on inside during the dreaming stage even for pantzers, right?
For me, and this is just me, my best creativity while writing comes when I already have the barebones, when I already know my characters, and I know where I’m going. Of course, I’m always open to surprises.
yes, I’m a control freak, so it only makes sense that I like a nice outline before I write. 🙂
Jennifer – There are other outliners out there. But I feel like I run across more pantzers. *shrugs* I’ll stick to planning. 🙂
I’m all about being more efficient the next time and knowing the characters and what the major crisis are going to be. I think some of my revisions were the result of learning as I go (totally necessary) but I really believe I have written myself in circles and struggled more than necessary. Not that my writing hasn’t gotten better because of it. It really has.
Tina Lee – Sometimes learning as you go is the best way.
I’m a panster. But escapades like that make me wish I could plot. :0)
Kristen – Even pansters plot – just in a different way. 🙂
Sigh. I’m a panster too. In life and in writing. I can be organized, I’m just really good at winging it…
Lisa – I’m terrible at winging at it! Awful.
That’s a scary story! I’m glad your son is okay.
Interestingly, I’m a pantser when I write but I tend to be pretty organized in my non-writer life. I wonder what that’s all about.
Oh, man you must have been so scared watching your lil guy careen down the hill!
If I have to go somewhere I’ve never been before, I carefully plot. I am so bad at directions, I need all the help I can get.
I’m extremely overprotective when it comes to my children, so I plot more with them, but as all parents know, all the plotting in the world doesn’t protect them from stitches (two weeks ago) or illnesses or hurt feelings.
But there are days where I am just too rushed and have no choice but to fly by the seat of my pants!
MG – That’s interesting. Writing is just a whole ‘nother world than real life.
Kelly – Wow, that’s something I could have said. I’m terrible with directions. When I go to a new place, I have the mapquest directions and maps printed out and highlighted. And I get stressed out, especially if I have to drive in traffic of any kind.
Oh, I’m so glad your son is okay! And as for plotting/pantsing: for my writing I’m a combination of both (which when I’m drifting through the mucky middle I curse myself daily for not plotting things out!) but in my real life – nu-uh I’m a plotter all the way. Planning vacations stresses me out so much because I try and anticipate every little detail that might happen (especially where the closest hospital is!)Maybe that’s why I’m a bit of a pantser with my writing – I get my thrill kick by living dangerously that way!
Nelsa – That makes total sense. Maybe we’re opposite in our writing than we are in life. Because I can’t say I’m a total planner when it comes to life – only certain aspects.
I’m traumatized just by reading this! So glad your son got off with just bragging rights. I’d certainly be plotting after that—a stern letter to the company that manages the slopes. I mean, geez. Wouldn’t a half green/half blue sign make more sense?
Thanks for the thought Anne, but I really should have looked at the trail map. Totally my mistake. But it’s not often a trail starts green and turns blue. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen it.
Pants. But with a specific goal for the end of each third of the novel.
Robert – My impression is that regardless of plotting and pantsing – we all plot to some degree. 🙂
Since I’m a software engineer by trade, I’m definitely a plotter. I love outlining but sometimes it can be bad because then I lose love for the story.
But pantzers? I give you all much credit. I don’t know if I could just write without knowing where the story is going.
Whatever works, I guess!