Authors, I think, come in three main flavors: plotters, pantsers, and those in the middle. Let’s discuss these briefly and I’ll tell you why I’m a pantser.
I must admit, I really admire plotters. They seem to have their act together. Everything down to the smallest detail is plotted out in advance before they even put pen to paper. The way a character looks, acts, and develops is planned—including their background, pet peeves, and character arcs. Every plot and subplot are diagrammed to show how all is intertwined. It seems the only thing lacking is the need to develop dialogue to tie all these pieces together. I know there is really more to it than that, but it does seem to be somewhat like following a formula. While this is extremely valuable, one does need to be cautious to be sure the plotting does not turn into a procrastination strategy rather than a writing strategy. One can feel good about themselves because they are “planning,” but this is deceptive. If you never get to the writing phase, then you are just procrastinating and not planning.
This hit home even further for me when I met Amy Deardon at a writer’s conference one year. She explained that she found all books and movies follow a certain story arc formula. In her presentation, she gave several examples. I was both floored and impressed at the same time. She even wrote a book about her findings: The Story Template. I, of course, bought the book. This was going to be my lifesaver. Yet, while totally intriguing, I found it very tedious to follow to the degree she outlined. I know this was likely a lifesaver for many, yet it was not for me. Now, the premise behind the information was indeed useful, but, for me, the detailed process became too laborious and tedious to follow.
Being a pantser is not without plotting all together. I think knowing the overarching ideas that Amy writes about is helpful in developing an overarching plan for a story. For me, it is much more fun to just start writing and then see where the story goes. This immerses me in the story as I begin to write from within the story rather than writing above the story. I place myself in the character’s shoes at that point in time and see how I would act or respond and then let the story develop organically in both content and flow. This allows me to let the story morph as new ideas come to me. I feel I can change direction on the fly better than when I had plotted a scene. These new ideas threw off my downstream planning, causing me to constantly keep changing my plan and the direction it was to head. So, eventually, I gave up on the detailed plotting and accepted the fact I was a pantser.
There are those who are in the middle of these two techniques. To be honest, I think most are in this third category to at least some extent. I once read that J. K. Rowling defined her style of writing to be somewhat between being a plotter and a pantser. When I read that, I became more comfortable with my style as I felt I was in good company. This becomes a broad category because some plot more than others and some write by the seat of their pants more than they plot. Yet, some degree of plotting is needed because I think an author must at least know where they are starting and how they plan to end. Otherwise, one’s story turns into a saga rather than a novel.
So, as you can see, there is no right or wrong methodology for being an author. One should do what works best for them. After all, it is about one being able to stimulate their creative ideas and engage their readers in a story. If both creativity and engagement are achieved, then I think one can say they have been successful. Embrace your style and let it guide you into fabulous stories that are riveting and engaging for your readers. I wish everyone a happy writing experience – no matter your style.
About the Author
Dr. Randy C. Dockens has a fascination with science and with the Bible, holds Ph.D. degrees in both areas, and is a man not only of faith and science, but also of creativity. He believes that faith and science go hand in hand without being enemies. He has written several books that span dystopia, end-time prophecy, science fiction, and uniquely told Bible stories. His books, while fun to read, are futuristic, filled with science to give them an authentic feel, have a science fiction slant, and allow one to learn some aspect of Biblical truth one may not have thought about before. This is all done in a fast-paced action format that is both entertaining and provides a fun read to his readers. Randy’s latest books are in the Christian science fiction series, ERABON PROPHECY TRILOGY.