Sunday, January 20, 2013

Plotter vs. Pantser


Most of my life is organized. There's a calendar on the fridge. Everyone has a colour and there's even a legend, because I'm also remarkably forgetful and can't often remember which colour is for whom. I have a writing schedule that I keep. Well, I keep a schedule, but I don't keep to the schedule - I'm also remarkably lazy. At my day job I'm a project manager, every moment filled with schedules, spreadsheets, and deliverables.  My job is infinitely easier when it's organized. Come to think of it, so is my life.  With writing I have found that there are two main camps - with the natural combinations, variations, and hybrids that tend to evolve from these sorts of things: 


  • Plotters; and
  • Pantsers.

Plotters plot. They map out ideas and organize them well ahead of putting words on a page. Pantsers are the opposite, opting to start with an idea that's often barely an idea, and then they wing it, or as the name suggests, they "fly by the seat of their pants".


So, when it comes to writing, what method do you think I would gravitate towards? In more ways than you can guess I'm a lot like a teenage boy. He meticulously takes care of his car; keeping it running smoothly, clean as a whistle on the inside (you could eat off the floor mats if you were allowed food in the car), and expertly polished on the outside. The bedroom, however, is a complete and total disaster. 

That's right; when it comes to writing I'm a 99.9% pantser, which is a bit ironic considering my extreme dislike of wearing pants. I say 99.9% because before I sit down to write anything, I have some idea of what I'm going to do. It's not often more than a vague idea of what the topic or scene is about, but it's something so I can't truly say that I'm a perfect pantser. Close, but not perfect. 

I know many writers that are plotters (a.k.a. planners). I even know one that has taken it to a very impressive level. My friend Wren Emerson plans her writing like she's drawing up schematics for a nuclear submarine. It's impressive and it works for her. She wrote a nice blog post about her process if you're interested. I bookmarked it in the unlikely event that I decide to map something out before I sit down to write. That was more than a year ago and I've clicked on the link once. 

I'm undecided as to which method is "better". I think most people will tell you that it's a personal choice and you have to go with what you're most comfortable. That being said, there will always be people who will tell you to do it their way. These also happen to be the same people who will tell you what type of underwear to put on in the morning. We have a name for folks like this: assholes. Just ignore them and move on. How you get from the spark of an idea to the finished product is as unique to an individual as their choice of clothing.

So what are you? Do you wear pants, and fly by the seat of them, or do you plan out each choice article by article? Either way, I'd recommend underwear of some kind. It helps reduce chafing. 

For the record, I will also put one other age-old question to rest: 

Boxers. 

~Andrew 

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