Camp Howyouwriteit: Plotters vs. Pantsters

Ahhh, summer camp. We take the bus out to the idyllic woods and either you get off at Camp Plotter, flying it’s very well-constructed flag, or Camp Pantster, flying, well, someone’s pants.flagpole pants

The two camps get along reasonably well. Sometimes you’ll find someone sneaking from one camp to the other, just to see what’s going on, but they usually sprint back through the woods as if Jason is chasing them.

Once you choose your camp, are you locked into a lifetime of Camp Plotter or Camp Pantster t-shirts? In a word, no. There’s actually a secret third camp, Camp Tweeners (not to be confused with the short-skirt wearing, belly-bearing, know-it-all pre-teens. They’re glamping the next town over).

According to James Scott Bell in his books on Super Structure and Write Your Novel from the Middle (both highly recommended), he said that writers can learn to be Tweeners.

Here’s another way to look at it. You’re taking a road trip from New York to California. The Plotter has every twist, turn and road stop perfectly planned. The Pantster just knows she needs to end up in California. Eventually.

Who do you think will get there more efficiently with a little gas in the tank? Yep, the Plotter. But who do you think will have more fun? The Pantster (because there’s this great little biker bar in Nashville …).

I’ve made no secret that I’m a long-standing member of Camp Pantster (hey! those are MY pants!) but I’m now sneaking over to the Plotter camp and I may take up residency in Camp Tweener. During a week-long academy, I learned plotting tips from the amazing Alexandra Sokoloff. From her, I’ve learned that I just need to know where I’m starting, a few key stops along the way and where I’m going.

FullSizeRenderI tried my hand at plotting a new novel and you know what, my Muse didn’t feel shackled one bit! And now, I’ve pulled the car over to study the map for Pardon Falls to see maybe when I took that left turn at Albuquerque and how I can get myself on track.

When I sit down to write my third, already plotted-out novel, will it come effortlessly? Probably not. Every story is wonderfully different with its own challenges. But I’ve got a full tank of gas and I know where I’m going.

About Kimberly Packard

Kimberly Packard is an award-winning author of women’s fiction. She began visiting her spot on the shelves at libraries and bookstores at a young age, gazing between the Os and the Qs. Kimberly received a degree in journalism from the University of North Texas, and has worked in public relations and communications for nearly 20 years. When she isn’t writing, she can be found rollerblading, doing a poor imitation of yoga or curled up with a book. She resides in North Texas with her husband Colby, Oliver the cat and a 75-pound lap dog named Charlie. Her debut novel, Phoenix, was awarded as Best General Fiction of 2013 by the Texas Association of Authors.
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