In case you’re not familiar with these terms, a “pantser” is one who has no plot, but plunges in and writes–flying by the seat of his or her pants. A plotter is one who methodically plans each scene ahead of time. In truth, I think that most writers fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
I would love to claim to be one of those people who just sits down and writes with no heed to where things are going, but the truth is, I have to have a plan. I have to know what the outcome is going to be, and how I am going to get myself there.
Since the time I have to write is scratched out of an otherwise busy life, when I do sit down to write, it’s usually with a lot of forethought and consideration. I use those other moments–sorting laundry, washing dishes and walking to the market–to give my thoughts to what fictional problem I’m going to work out when I do have the time to sit down and actually write. Having some kind of a plot outline gives me food for thought for those moments of contemplation.
And now I have a new tool to help me in plotting: Scrivener. Some time last year, after a friend gave me his used MacBook Pro, I installed Scrivener and have not looked back. Of its many amazing features, I love the ability to make detailed notes on characters, setting and plot, all without sullying the beautiful blank pages of the novel itself.
In my work in progress (working title, What the Girl Knew), there are three viewpoint characters. For each one, I can make a random list of scenes on virtual index cards that can be shuffled around to rearrange the scenes in the novel. And I can color-code each index card according to its POV (point of view) character.
Here’s a screenshot of my work in progress:
I have blurred out the area to the left to avoid any spoilers. All the scenes tagged in red belong to my protagonist. The blue and orange scenes are for other POV characters. The scenes are wildly out of order–just as I thought of them. But enough of them are there that I am almost ready to begin the actual work of writing.
I just need to do a little more work on character first. But for that, Scrivener is equally amazing. Here is a look at the character page for the main character from my middle-grade novel, now in the revision stage:
This character is really well-fleshed out. I have a definite handle on him. But I’m lacking a little of this yet when it comes to What the Girl Knew. A little more time hammering out the details on those characters and when I sit down to write, they will drive the story forward. With the gentle guidance of the plot details I’ve already established, I should end up in the right place.
How about you? Are you a plotter or a pantser? If you’re not a writer, which kind do you think you would be?