Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Planner or Pantser? by Debbie Lynne Costello

Is being a seat-of-the-pants writer wrong? Does plotting take all the fun out of writing a story? Debbie Lynne Costello gives us her experience when it comes to getting that story on the page. -- Sandy


Debbie Lynne: So what kind of writer are you? Are you a planner or a seat-of-the-pantster? Just in case you are new to the writing world and aren’t familiar with those terms here's a basic explanation: Planners plan their stories out before writing them and pantsters wing it, flying by the seat of their pants as they go through the story.

There isn’t a right way or a wrong way to write, and if you’re a new writer don’t let anyone tell you that your
way is wrong. Writing is as individual as fingerprints…okay, maybe not quite that unique but you get the picture.

When I first started writing and before I talked to anyone who was in the industry, I just sat down to my computer and started to type the story that God had laid on my heart. The words just flowed and I looked forward to every moment that I could sneak away and write. I’d stay up until the wee hours of the morning, pouring out my story. I loved every minute I spent writing that story.

But then I got connected with the writing world.

Before I go any further let me just say that finding a writing community was the best thing that ever happened to my career. However, as I met more and more people I started hearing that the way I wrote my story was all wrong! I needed to plot it out—to plan my story scene by scene, chapter by chapter. Well, I wanted to be successful so that’s exactly what I did. I planned and plotted my next story.

But you know what happened? I lost some of the joy that I had with that first story. By plotting my story out I lost the freedom to let my characters take me where they wanted to go. And that stole the love of writing. I still enjoyed the craft but not like my first story.

I have friends that plan out their stories down to the smallest detail and they write beautifully and enjoy what they do. And so that is right for them. My point is there is no right or wrong way to write. This is a business, and an art. What makes it successful for you? God has created each of us differently and we need to follow how He has created us to write.

So on to the business side of writing. As a pantster I have run into a problem along the way that a planner doesn’t have. And that is some publishers want a detailed summary/synopsis—some even require a chapter by chapter. So what does a pantster do?

What I’ve found helps me is to take my time as I plan out the story. I walk through the scenes with my characters and give them time to tell me if they’d planned a surprise twist for me. Give yourself a few days between chapter summaries and then reread what you’ve wrote. Is your character happy with where you are taking them? If not find out why and see if you can make them happy.

The key for me is not to hurry. Now, I will say, that at times my characters have taken me down a different path even though the summary clearly stated that was not the road to go. Sometimes there is just no stopping them.  And when that happens I just do my best to keep the storyline from straying too far from the outline of the story.


How about you? Are you a planner or a pantster? Have you tried writing the other way? If so what happened?

~~~~~

A recent WWII widow receives a mysterious letter seeking reconciliation with her in-laws, but when she goes for a visit only her father-in-law seems to be interested in mending fences. But as the days pass mother-in-law and daughter-in-law learn a little about themselves and the true meaning of forgiveness.



Debbie Lynne has enjoyed writing stories since she was about eight years old. She raised her family and then embarked on her own career of writing the stories that had been begging to be told. She and her husband have four children and live in upstate South Carolina. She has worked in many capacities in her church and is currently the Children’s director. Debbie Lynne has shown and raised Shetland sheepdogs for eighteen years and still enjoys litters now and then. In their spare time, her and her husband enjoy camping and riding their Arabian and Tennessee Walking horses.
goes for a visit only her father-in-law seems to be interested in mending fences. But as the days pass mother-in-law and daughter-in-law learn a little about themselves and the true meaning of forgiveness.

20 comments:

  1. Hey, sweet friend! I'm so glad that you've discovered your way of writing and I hope you've found your joy again. You're so right, each of us write differently. Great post and congratulations! Hugs!

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    1. Hey Angie!!! Thank you so much for inviting me here. I'm looking forward to meeting and chatting with your followers. I still love the escape of writing. It is just who I am. Have a blessed Thanksgiving, my friend.

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  2. Ah...the age old question. When I first started writing I was a pantster. Like you, I just wrote what was on my heart. Then I got stuck. So I started over. By the time I discovered writing communities and critique partners I had about four versions of the same story...none of them finished. So I took an online class about plotting. I guess my story is the opposite of yours in that plotting opened my world and suddenly the story came alive. I've learned that I NEED that detailed road map for my story. It doesn't stop the inspiration from hitting and I take a few detours, but I always have a final destination in mind. I really admire people who are pantsers, I just can't do it.

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    1. That is great that you've found the nitch that helps you in your writing, LeAnne! That's what is so wonderful about writing, we all take different paths but arrive at the end. I'm so glad there is no 'rule' in most cases that says we have to be one or the other or a mixture of both! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! We have so much to be thankful for in this country.

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  3. Hey, Debbie Lynne. Like you, I started writing as a pantser, but for the same reason, forced myself to become a planner. Plotting out three stories at a time takes upfront time and prompts me to pull out the rest of my hair or hurl my laptop out the office window, but it's worth it when I finally start pounding out the story. I know where I'm going and I get right to it. Great post. Wishing you a joyous Thanksgiving!

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    1. Hey Dora. That is great that you made the transition from panster to planner. I will admit, it makes writing faster once I start writing, but my problem is my characters seem to have a mind of their own sometimes! LOL. When I start writing and I get to know them better sometimes they want to go another direction. Trying to rein them in can be a challenge.

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    2. Sandry, I wanted to thank you for inviting me to your blog. It's an honor to be here and I really appreciate you having me. I'm looking forward to visiting with your followers! I pray you have a blessed and fun Thanksgiving. God Bless.

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    3. Glad to have you and your words of wisdom on SW today, Debbie Lynne!

      Unfortunately, as novice writers, I do think we can let the "rules" of writing zap our joy. I'm just now learning to relax a little. As for plotting/pantsing ... I'm a hybrid---a bit of both. I like to know the basic story and plot points, but in no way could plot scene-by-scene. I had to put together the proposal synopsis for the novel I'm writing now. It's veering a little off course in some minor details, but is still the same story overall.

      Happy Thanksgiving to you, too! :)

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    4. Sheesh! How's that for putting Sandra and Sandy together! LOL.

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    5. LOL! I'm not sure it's what my parents had in mind, but hey, I'm not picky. :) It could be the name of your next MC.

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  4. Interesting to learn about writing as a pantster. Had never given it a thought. Then, again, I am not a writer but love to read about writers. Thank you for this interview.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Robin. Like Debbie Lynne, when I first started I was a total pantser, though I'd never heard the term and didn't know any differently. :)

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    2. Happy Thanksgiving Eve, Robin! Thanks for coming by. To be honest with you, I had never thought about it either when I started writing. I just sat down and wrote! As I said I do plan when I have to but overall I'm a pantser who knows where my story starts, where it ends and a few high points in between.

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  5. Plotter here! I need to know where I'm headed and how I'm going to get there! Staring at a blank page with no plan kind of freaks me out. But, I still leave room to change things up as my characters reveal more things about them. ;-)

    Happy Thanksgiving, Debbie!

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    1. Hey Dawn. I understand. I always know where I start and where I'm headed along with a few stops along the way but a scene by scene or even a chapter by chapter is way beyond my plotting ability if I'm expected to stick to it. ;o)

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  6. Pantser! I've tried all kinds of plotting methods, and they left me feeling like I was in a straight jacket. I love the surprises that come with organic writing.

    As a reader, it's too easy for me to see the underpinnings of a story when it's plotted. Most of the time I can figure out the ending.

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    1. Susan! Thanks for coming by. I really find when I have had to plot that it is very hard sticking to the map. My characters never like the roads I had down for them to take. So I do avoid the plotting if at all possible. You made me giggle when you said you figure out the books that are plotted. I drive my hubby crazy with that when we watch a movie. I always giveaway the ending. I just can't contain myself. Heehee

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  7. Total pantser! The only "plotting" I do is getting to know my characters. I have a general vision of where the story will end up (usually the spiritual theme), but I have no idea how the characters are going to get me there. That's the fun! I get to discover it just like the readers will!

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    1. Hey Sarah! OH you are even more of a pantser than me! LOL> I have a little more of an idea where it starts and ends and maybe a couple pivotal scenes but that's about it. And YES! That is so true that it is fun seeing where these characters take me. But I don't know my characters as well and get to know them along the way. Thanks for coming by!

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  8. Thank you again for having me on Seriously Write! It's been fun chatting with everyone!

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