Writers have some strange jargon. Planner and Pantser appeared on my radar about a year ago. When I first saw them I think my response was along the lines of, “What the . . . ?”
They are easy to remember:
Planner: Plans the novel from start to finish and then writes. “Thou shalt outline or your story is going to publisher hell.”
Pantser: “Flies by the seat of the pants.” In other words, just wing that mutha’.
This is a pretty big thing debated in the writing community. I attended a writing workshop last Saturday and the first thing out of the speaker’s mouth was, “Outline!” The crowd kinda shifted in their seats and mumbled to one another, but what were they to do? They were held captive by this outlining fiend.
So, Dan’s two bits, because I have the e-soap box right now . . .
Our speaker made the analogy of what person in his right mind would build a house without a blueprint? Nobody, that’s who! Great analogy. Problem is, I’m not building a house, I’m writing a story.
A lot about writing a story is about discovery. How many times have we written a scene, going in full well knowing what is supposed to happen and our characters take it in a completely different direction? Sometimes this is good and sometimes its not, but this is what writing is about. You can’t always force it to your will. How do you blueprint that? You can’t.
Video game analogy time! Number three rule of game design—you will make a game design doc at the start of the project, and by the end its best use will be to wipe your ass. You know why? It’s because what sounds good on paper doesn’t always work out on the screen. Game designers need time to figure out what works best for their game and their audience. This is true with story writing too.
Now, let me back track a little before folks think I’m a pantser. I’m not espousing that either. Going back to this presenter, his talk was about story structure: beginning, middle, and end. He was adamant that people understand what each entails. I agree with him, however, this in no way entails that a writer outline—it simply means that a writer needs to understand story structure. Our presenter said that he speaks to published authors all the time that don’t outline—it’s because they understand story structure. This is key!
So, I challenge my writer friends out there—whether you are a planner or a pantser—do you really understand story structure? Heck, do you even know what it means? It could save you some headaches!
WIP Update: I hit a milestone today. I finished the bursts for my protagonist (uncertainty about particular scenes was conquered). Next step–I go through all the bursts and arrange them so they create a rough draft. After that, I tackle another character’s bursts. Yay me!