Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Transformation Is Complete

In the spirit of transparency, and to give credence to the saying "never say never", I am here to report that I am officially no longer a pantser.


Okay, sometimes it makes me panic.  As in, have I left behind my roots and moved on--for real?  Can the I-was-born-this-way in me have morphed so dramatically?


Well, let me clarify.  If the word "plotter" conjures visions of carefully annotated outlines or neat stacks of numbered notecards, that's not me.  But I've spoken before, in glowing terms, of Blake Snyder's "beat sheet" and the marvelous way it translates to novel writing (it's designed for screenplays), which definitely falls into the "plotter" category.

And I'm officially saying that I will never write another novel without a beat sheet.

Yep.  I said never!

I've just finished a WIP in 3 months, which is my normal time frame.  But THIS time, I've got a story with an arc that isn't broken in twelve places.  It WORKS!  Now, that doesn't mean the piece doesn't need a whole lot of work.  In fact, I'm already super-antsy to dig in.  (This, and I promised myself I would tuck this novel away until much later.  Hah!  You know how it goes.)

But, truly, the difference between THIS first draft and my LAST first draft is astounding.  And I don't want to go back to the way things were.

It makes a huge difference to know where you're going.  And I don't just mean the ending--I think that, for the most part, even the most hard-core pantsers have at least some idea where the story will end.  But "knowing where you're going" is about way more than just "The End."  The exhilaration of ALWAYS knowing where I was going next--even if I'd just come up with a new scene or secondary storyline--is indescribable.  And so FREEING!

Yes, I've converted.  Chortle, applaud, roll your eyes, or lament at will.

On top of the whole I'm-a-plotter-now thing, my WIP is written in first person present.  And, yeah.  I used to HATE first person present.  As in, Hate.  Capitalized.  But you know how a story often begs to be told a certain way?  That's what happened.  This story is a fairly intense YA dystopian (I can't stop writing them!), and from the moment I conceived it, I knew it had to be first person present.

Funny how, even three quarters of the way through, I still sometimes reverted to "said" without realizing I'd done it.  But for the most part, I found my rhythm and groove quickly, and actually enjoyed writing in this tense.

Who knew!

So there you have it.  You know how I continually refer to this writing-toward-publication thing as a journey?  This is yet another example.  And it feels wonderful!

What about you?  Have you morphed into anything lately?


  1. I am with you on plotting all the way! I morphed into a plotter a few months ago - it's soooo much easier. My last novel was a breeze to write and I love it. It's a totally different story with the one before it. :)

  2. I loved Blake Snyder's Save the Cat. It revolutionize my writing. I had a lot of trouble outlining before I wrote, but if I didn't have some sort of plan my stories would just meander. The beat sheet was the perfect compromise and has helped my writing tremendously.

  3. I hear the sound of pantsers stampeding to Save the Cat!

  4. I used to hate first person present too. And now that's what I'm writing because this dystopian HAS TO be written that way. Interesting. :)

  5. Congrats on finishing your WIP. Have to love a good dystopia!

  6. I remain a faithful panster, but I am working on a 1st person present YA and wait for it...from two narrators! Something I hate with a passion, but I guess I want to see if I can do it and make the narrators sound as they should, like two different people.

  7. I'm with you: Blake Snyder's Save the Cat changed my life. I still pants a bit, but the outline is so helpful! It made my first draft so easy to finish. So I wouldn't say I'm a pantser or an outliner - how about pantyliner? LOL.

  8. Being a pantser for as long as I can remember, it's a hard road to travel and it does meander quite a lot. I've been looking for ways to make my second novel easier to write, and this approach looks pretty attractive.

    Not going to give up pantsing, since I love the 'happy accidents' in plot it brings, but definitely need to plot for the major points in the story.

  9. There are no words so I will leave you with this video instead:

    And now, I must return to my meticulously plotted, FPP manuscript. *grin*

  10. I've always been plotter, but I used to write exclusively in 3rd person. After I completed my current WiP, I decided there was something "off" about it and I switched my ENTIRE ms from 3rd person to 1st. I didn't feel the character was coming through the way I wanted her to so I morphed the whole freaking thing! And I love it! Who knew?

  11. I seem to have morphed from a plotter to a panster! My last three books, including my WIP, have been pansted and I've found I really enjoy it. I still love my plotting roots though and I definitely haven't closed the door on plotting a book because I think each book is born differently and some may need a lot of plotting while some will just fly out of the gate, but it has been pretty interested to undergo this morph!

  12. Laura -- feel free to call yourself a pantiliner. I think I'll pass. LOL!

    Holly Bodger Darling -- LOLOL!! Yes yes yes, and I totally expected a "told you so" from you today. :-)

  13. Save the Cat saved my writing too! And though I'm not really a pantser anymore, among all the plotting it is beneficial to play around with your writing so you can get to know your characters and setting. That hung me up when I was plotting like crazy--I had to let myself just write too. :)

  14. I, too, always hated the first person present but had the same experience of having a story that had to be told that way.

  15. Welcome to the light, Authoress. Welcome to the light.

  16. I'm a former pantser turned outliner. I used to hate even the idea of outlines. I just sat down with no idea of where a story would go and wrote for awhile. The result? Relatively plotless books in which hardly anything happened and there was a lot of pointless meandering.

    I knew I sucked at plots so I decided to do something about it and actually outline just to see what would happen, and I couldn't believe how much more I enjoyed it. My draft had a much improved plot compared to before, but more than anything I had a sense of control that I'd never felt before.

    I don't necessarily know everything when I start, but I have a general idea of where it's going and what the main conflict is and where the mid-story super conflicts will come into play. I always actually plan the next few specific scenes in advance.

    When it comes time to write, rather than sit there and just ramble, wondering where I'm going next, I know exactly what scene to write and what's happening and what comes of it, and I love that feeling. Sure the characters still surprise me sometimes, but that's part of the fun.

    I don't plan to go back either.

  17. I love Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet! I've just recently started tinkering with it, and enjoy plotting books that I might not ever write, just for practice.

    As for first-person present, I love it (sometimes I start out in past-tense, and then discover that I've switched over without realizing it), but I will always loathe third-person present. Which means someday I will probably have to write a book that way.

  18. I shifted from pantser to plotter when I shifted genres from Historical to (Historical) Mystery. The mystery genre has needs - specifically, organized clues and *some* idea about who the murderer actually IS - that you can't duplicate without an outline.

    My outlines are still fluid, and change during the drafting process - and that's fine with me. Still, it's amazing how much easier it is to start off with a decent first draft if you put the basic pieces together ahead of time. (Wait...the horse's head goes on the other end...)

  19. I've been fiddling around with some attempts to plot too. Those broken plot lines are driving me batty too! I'll have to try the beat sheet - sounds like it has potential for us pantsters!

  20. Glad to have you on the dark side MSFV!

    I honestly have no clue why anyone will write a novel without a plan, but, hey, what ever works for you...

    Cheers to all us plotters out there! :D

  21. Like you, I have just become a reluctant plotter after being a lifelong pantser. I'm hoping it will eliminate one or two of the multiple drafts I always end up writing while I struggle with the story.

    The downside is, with knowing where I'm going, it's easy to get bored. I like when my characters take off and do crazy stuff I didn't expect them to do. Plotting means they are reined in a little more and don't surprise me nearly enough.

  22. I've slowly morphed into a plotter as well. It's kind of scary. I think it's funny that you mention tense though - I told myself I would NEVER EVER EVER EVER write in present tense, but like 3 pages into my recent NaNo novel I suddenly realized I had switched from past to present and I never looked back. It was what was needed for that story. :)

  23. I've always been a plotter, but that's not what this comment is about.

    It's about how awesome screenplay advice is in regards to writing novels.

    I myself use Robert McKee's STORY as my guide most of the time, and it helps my scenes from start to finish, beat by beat.

    I think movies and screenplays have a lot to teach novelists. Sometimes even in my literature classes, I refer to movies and beats for examples.

    Congrats on your latest WIP, Plotteress! :)

  24. I'm a current pantser, toying with the idea of outlining. I like surprises, but I also find that I stall quite a bit when I come to an empty spot between two major plot-point scenes and have no idea what to write for it. My assumption is that outlining might help me get a clue and stay productive. I've been hearing good things about Save the Cat, so I guess I'll finally take a look.

    The whole POV/tense thing amazes me sometimes. I've written in all combinations of 1st, 3rd, and 2nd (yes, I said 2nd) in past and present (and one ill-fated future progressive) tense. But I've never not liked writing in any particular POV or tense. None of them seem more difficult than the others--none make me gag. And I've never shied away from reading anything written in any of them or stopped halfway through a book because I couldn't stand the POV or tense. I guess I'm just completely blind to it. I wonder what that says about me as a writer. (I'm going to pretend it means I'm just very open minded.)