I got into a big discussion with a non-writer friend yesterday about plotting. I was talking about why I’m thinking about the challenge of writing a novella (I figure it will be good for me to try to hone my skills to squeeze more story into a tighter space) and also what difficulties I’ve been having with TD since I plotted everything out. She seemed baffled by the fact that I abhor plotting so much. She is a Planner with a capital P. She loves to organize and make plans and follow through. When I said that plotting was no fun, she said “but it’s fun for readers.”
Plotting and reading for plot are so not the same thing. As a pantser, when I finish a book, I still have a plot in the end just like I would if I had outlined the whole thing first–albeit, admittedly probably not as tight a one as I would have had if I had outlined the whole thing first, but that’s what revisions are for. Plotting, for me, is kind of like writing a Cliff’s Notes version of my book and then being expected to write a longer version where most of the surprises have already been sprung, and I already know what happens. When you write suspense, having all the surprises gone just kind of sucks. The surprises are what we pantsers live for. There’s little more fun than your plot taking an unexpected and interesting turn when you least expect it. I suppose, too, that that’s a sign that I still write like a reader. I like to discover what happens as I go.
Pantsers and plotters differ on some fundamental levels. Take, for example, a trip to Ireland. Ireland is one of those countries where you always hear stories about getting lost. Pantsers are the kind of people who would go to Ireland, rent a car, and then just go with no destination in mind. They’re the ones who are deliberately seeking adventure in the unexpected. Plotters are the ones who get off the plane with a carefully typed itinerary, a sticky tabbed guide book, and a highlighted route on a map. Plotters are not likely to be the ones to take the road less traveled. This is, of course, a broad and sweeping generalization and doesn’t apply to everyone, but you get the point.
This is not to say that I don’t see the virtue in plotting things out and knowing where you’re going and how everything connects. I do see the benefits, which is why–despite my loathing of the process–I continue to do it. Or try to do it anyway. It’s ironic because in real life, I’m a very very organized soul both at work (the day jobs) and at home. I’m fairly sure most of my friends would not use the term “spontaneous” when describing me. Maybe that’s one of the other things I like about pantsing. It’s “safe” spontenaity. I don’t risk loss of income or danger to my person. At worst, I’ve lost some time because I have to go back and rewrite something later. The only reason that bothers me at all is that I’m trying to be more efficient with my writing such that I’m not going through 3 drafts of something to get it finished before I can begin shopping it.
What about y’all? Do you hate or loathe plotting and why?
On a completely unrelated note: Visitors, is it clear to you that the blogroll over there on the side is expandable?