Tag Archives: outlining

Plotter, Pantser, Gardener

If you have ever seen an author interview, very often you will see a question about whether the author is a plotter or a pantser.

A plotter is fairly self-explanatory. It means that the author plots out the points of the story before writing (some plot every point, some do only major points).

Pros:

  • Author always know where they’re going
  • Organized- less time spent figuring it out as they go
  • Easier editing (probably)

Cons:

  • Lacks spontaneity
  • Author may not feel the need to write as they already know the ending
  • Author spends a lot of time prepping and not writing

A pantser is named such because the author flies by the seat of their pants while they write, typically not making use of an outline or using a very vague one.

Pros:

  1. Plenty of room for change
  2. More writing, less planning
  3. More “fun” for the author who enjoys surprise

Cons:

  1. More editing (probably)
  2. The author may get stuck more often
  3. Messy, which doesn’t work well if the author is more of a structured person

Most authors fall along this spectrum of rigidity, but what about if you fall somewhere in the middle?

This is where the gardener comes in.

I describe a gardener as someone who begins with a basic plan but allows for a lot of wiggle room. It takes the best of both worlds when it comes to plotting and pantsing. Why call it a gardener? Well, a gardener has an idea of what they want the garden to look like when they start. They know where the plants will go and maybe what types they want. They plant the seeds (plot strings) and tend them until they grow to full-bloom. Along the they way prune or add fertilizer as needed. They may notice that a plant needs to be moved or gotten rid of, and they take that into consideration as they tend the garden. As a gardener, I have a hard time thinking of cons because the style of gardener varies greatly with the writer. It can be a bit messy and will lead to at least some editing later, but it lacks the rigidity of plotting and the “winging it” aspect of pantsing. Here is an outline I wrote while working on The Earl of Brass:

eilian-hadley outlinePlease ignore the crazy diamonds, I was marking off what I covered at the time. As you can see, the major points are plotted out with arrows from event to event. What you can’t see from the final product is that I actually filled in several major events that I knew I needed, and then I added the smaller events in between. This is the basic idea of a gardener. They know the major points and fill in the smaller ones along the way but not to the point of completely locking the plot. For me, I need flexibility while I write to let my characters breathe and do their thing. They often surprise me, and I haven’t been disappointed yet.

So are you a plotter, pantser, or gardener?


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5 Tips for Beating Writers Block

Sorry for not blogging sooner, but I have been under the weather for the past week.  Today’s post will be about the dreaded writers block.

Writers block can be one of the most crippling experiences for a writer, and after experiencing a bout of this recently myself, I thought I would post a few tips that may help to get through it.

  1. Ask, “Would your characters actually do this?”  Sometimes being stuck is caused by something as simple as trying to force a scene. Step back for a minute and think about how the scene can be reworked. Is your character doing something out of character? This can be the bane of a plotter’s existence because they have their outline and want to stick to it, but at times, a character can be whispering to you that they don’t want to or wouldn’t do what you are intending them to do.
  2. Free write.  Is another story knocking at your brain but you’re 2/3 into another one and don’t want to give up on it or throw yourself into a new project? Take a few minutes to let the scene out. Save the file in a separate folder of scraps or future projects and let it go. You can always revisit it when you’re finished with your current project, but for now, it’s out of your brain and on paper for later.
  3. Make an outline. Sometimes you need to see it on paper to get going. It’s often a case of where have I come from and where am I going? Draw out what you have thus far and then where you know you have to go. Typically, I use a blank sheet of printer paper and a brightly colored pen to stimulate ideas and remove constraints (no idea why it works but it seems to). Don’t put the future points too close together, leave space to fill-in with ideas. What do your characters need to do and how do we get them there?
  4. Look for visual inspiration. You have ideas, you know what you need to do, but the spark just isn’t there. Try going onto sites like Pinterest or Tumblr and looking for pictures that have to do with your story. If it’s set in the Victorian era, look up historical photos or vintage clothing. Is there a celebrity who looks like your characters? Look them up. Throughout the writing process, I create a Pinterest board of inspiration and look to it when I’m feeling stuck or meh about my writing.
  5. Read. One of the best pieces of writing advice I have ever gotten is to read. Reading will not only stimulate ideas, but it will be a refresher for craft. How does the author get to the climax? How are the characters built with depth and how do we find out about them? Read authors who inspire you and see how they did it. Learn from the masters, and let their words power yours.

Hopefully this helps you in your writing. The block is often caused by stress or fatigue and not laziness on the author’s part, but when you feel stuck, try some of the tips mentioned above and see if they help get you through. If nothing else, go for a walk and clear your head.


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