Plotting By the Seat of My Pants

NOTE: This blog post is a form of procrastination, a diversion from what I said I was really going to do today – write 2,000 words.

But, that said, it’s an important post because it’s a place for me to work out something that I’ve never done before. Plotting and developing an outline.

There are typically two camps in writing: plotters and pantsters. Plotters are the methodical sort who develop an outline – sometimes nearly as long as the novel itself, to detail out all the important plot points. Then, you have the spontaneous pantsters, the sort who hop in the car with a full tank of gas and no clear destination in mind.

That’s me. I’m a pantster.

I need to add this to my writing wardrobe.

I need to add this to my writing wardrobe.

I’m not completely irresponsible. I knew how Phoenix was going to end before I even wrote it, and while many parts of it changed during the time I worked on it, the end never did. And, the same goes for Pardon Falls, I know how it’s going to end, and I doubt that it will change while I work on it.

But, something else has changed. And it’s that change that is forcing me to re-evaluate how I write.

I have readers and a publisher waiting on the second novel. I can’t take eight years to write it like I did Phoenix. If I do, I’m pretty sure there will be a hit put out on me. Something else has changed, I now have a sweet, rambunctious puppy to entertain. My previous dog was so incredibly patient with her writer mom. But Charlie hasn’t yet learned the ropes. So when he’s down for a nap, I’ve got one hour maybe to pound out some pages before he wakes up ready to wrestle. The luxury of writing hours on end is gone, therefore I have to make sure that the words are the right ones and I don’t end up with “Me Write Pretty” moments that just get deleted later.

Instead of writing, I’m going to do something that I’ve only ever done after the story is written. Outline it. For Phoenix, I used an Excel spreadsheet just to help me easily find what happened in which chapter. Maybe now I should employ that same exercise but plan out what should happen.

Hoping that plotting can avoid that uncomfortable feeling.

Hoping that plotting can avoid that uncomfortable feeling.

I feel like I’m betraying other pantsters out there. That I’m not being true to myself by following the same writing process that worked the first time. But maybe this is the sign of my growth as a writer? One symptom of insanity is doing the same thing each time and expecting a different outcome. Does this mean that by plotting Pardon Falls I’ll come out with a different novel?

Maybe if I view this as plotting by the seat of my pants I’ll still feel a little bit punk, just without the pink hair dye.

Fellow writers, do you change your writing process novel to novel?

NOTE: This post is 507 words. I’m going to count that to my 2,000 word goal today. Don’t judge.

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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2 Responses to Plotting By the Seat of My Pants

  1. Kim,

    If you haven’t already, check out Scrivener. There’s a version for Windows, Mac, or Linux. It’s a fantastic writing tool. It’s cheap too. Organizing, outlining, and writing in it are very easy. Many big name pro writers use it. You can keep outline notes, research text & images, your copy, annotations, and more all in the same .scriv file. It’s all there for you to move around, copy, split screen view, whatever. It’s very cool. Just a suggestions. Btw, you can still pants withing an outline, of course. 🙂

    • Kimberly Packard says:

      Thanks, Scot! I’ve heard about that but haven’t taken the leap to buying it. And you’re right – I can pants the outline!

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