Plotters vs. Pantsers:Who’s More Resistent To Change?

I finished the first draft of House of Cards in September of 07, and yes, I was a proud mama. It’s the first full length adult book I’ve birthed. I’ve moved on to other projects in the meantime while I sent HOC off to betas and generally just pushed it to the backburner to let it simmer. About 2/3rds of the way through the book, I knew I was probably going to have to make some pretty radical changes to make it the best book it could possibly be. I had a few vague notions of what some of those changes would be–a big part of it being changing some of the structure and plot outline to amp up the suspense even more from the beginning and make the relationship more connected to it than it is in the current version. Anyway, over the last five months–God has it really been that long?–and particularly over the last month, I have come up with some clearer ideas of what will be necessary. That’s going to involve changing the initial setup, adding victims to my killer’s list, possibly changing location (that in itself isn’t a big deal–the locale doesn’t play that big a role in the story), and making some pretty radical changes to my heroine. It’s going to wind up being a very very different story (though not different enough to make it a whole new book!).

I was telling Pot about all the changes and she sort of goggled at me and said, “I don’t think I could ever make those kinds of major changes to one of my stories.” She gets very set in her plot, in the nature of her characters. She also puts a helluva lot more thought into all of it before she writes down a word, so I think that makes more sense. But it causes some problems for her when she gets stuck because it’s more difficult to see alternatives. Not that I’m necessarily better at seeing alternatives from my standpoint as more of a pantser.

It does bring up a question for me though. Are hard and fast plotters less likely to consider really radical revisions to their stories or characters than more spontaneous pantsers? Do pantsers, who figure things out as we go and often have to backtrack and rewrite and redo, have a leg up on being more…oh I don’t know…accepting of the notion of making really radical changes to a plot or characters? Are we less resistant to the idea because we don’t slave over an outline and a plot for the same length of time and thus are less attached to our creations? I’m mostly just postulating here, so I may be way off base, but I would love to hear from other pantsers and plotters out there to get your thoughts.

One thought on “Plotters vs. Pantsers:Who’s More Resistent To Change?

  1. All I know is that I feel so much more freely creative with your worlds and people than with mine. You ask me what could happen, it is often easy for me to come up with something or even a few somethings, and when you don’t like that idea, it’s often really easy for me to chuck that, clear my mental screen, and come up with another idea. So we’ve talked before about how I find it is much easier to brainstorm for you than for myself. We’ve said that it’s probably because it’s not as personal, I’m not as invested in your work (rightly so) as I am in my own, I’m not responsible for the follow-through on anything I let loose on the brain storm.

    It was interesting for me when this came up the other day and we talked about it, because on some level I knew it to be true for me, but I guess I’d never said it before. And you know how I don’t think that, for most writers, a story should be allowed to run amok and do whatever it wants to. But if I get so attached to my characters that I turn them into brain dolls and can’t seem to allow changes to happen in my head, how is that different from letting the brain dolls run the show?

    I don’t know if that will make sense to anyone else. In writing the comment I find myself much sleepier than I thought I was. But yeah, sort of thinking the other way, I know that the fact that it is very hard for me to re-imagine and make substantial changes is a huge reason why I am a plotter. I never want to write myself to the place where I’ll have to back up and take a different path.

    What do they call that? Interference? When you can’t learn something because of what you learned before? Like you can’t learn Spanish because you already learned German and every time you try to think of the Spanish word the German word pops up. Like how in you’ve sent me a picture of what Marin looks like, and if I were taking a test, I could tell you that she has red, curly hair. But in my head she has very dark, wavy hair because that’s how I first imagined her and I can’t seem to shake the image when I read about her. Still.

    Blah blah blah. Babble much when you’re sleepy?

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