Outlines, Plot Twists and Google Maps

I generally consider the whole ‘pantser’ vs ‘plotser’ debate to be a Shrodinger’s Cat dilemma–we plan and pants simultaneously (and yeah, at various points in the process, the book might feel dead and alive at the same time depending on whether or not you’re looking at it). Truth be told, the pantsing/plotting happens recursively as well. You can start with an outline for your novel (if you have a publisher and a contract, you’ll have had to at least come up with this much). Depending on your style, you may have outlines for every chapter, even every scene. Hell, I heard about someone who had a 60K ‘outline’ for a 90K book (which made me think what he really had was a 60K first draft). Whatever floats your boat. But just remember ….

At some point, you’re going to run into construction cones, ‘bridge out’ signs and the mother of […]

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By the seat of my pants

You’ve heard the discussion before, I’m sure. Is pantsing better or plotting? And I’m here to tell you, I have no idea. I can tell you my experience with both and what I wish for and what I’m doing now.

I used to plot my novels. Don’t get me wrong. I was no John Pitts*. I did not outline a very detailed way at all. It amounted to mostly this happens and then this and then this and so on and so forth. It was easy. Looking back, I think that may be because either I jumped into the story before it was fully formed and did a lot of pantsing on the way, the stories were a lot smaller than the ones I tell now, or, and this one is the most likely, I didn’t have a fully formed sense of the world and characters and so I filled […]

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Quick-Tip Tuesday: Finding Balance Between Plotting and Pantsing

Whether to outline or whether to just write the story — put another way, to plot or to pants.

This is an ongoing discussion among writers, one that we’ve discussed here in the past. It’s actually more relevant for me right now than you might know. I’m well into a novel — I’ve written more than 100,000 words on it already — that I did NOT outline. And now I find myself struggling with the plotting as the book approaches its climax.

So, I must be about to give you a sermon on the virtues of plotting and the evils of pantsing, right?

Well, not entirely. The truth is, while I’m scuffling a bit right now, writing the novel has been fun. Because I haven’t been working from an outline, the discovery of each new plot point has come as something of an epiphany. I’ve been experiencing the story as […]

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David B. Coe: The Plotter Pantses

I’m a plotter, and I have been for most of my career. I don’t outline every detail of my books. Far from it. I tend to write loose outlines that touch on the significant plot points of my narratives but leave the details — dialog, specific action, descriptions, etc. — to the moment when I’m actually writing. In other words, I’m a hybrid, as so many of us are: I plot a bit, but I also allow much of my writing to happen organically.

I think that my penchant for doing at least some outlining is, at least in part, an outgrowth of the kind of books I’ve written through my career. I started with big epic fantasies — multi-book story arcs, lots of sub-plots, lots of point of view characters. If I hadn’t outlined, I would have gone crazy trying to keep track of it all. And then I […]

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The Plotter Goes Pantsing: The Relationship Between Process and Product

Thanks to Lyn Nichols for today’s title . . .

I hadn’t planned it this way, but this post serves as a nice follow-up to Chloe Neill’s excellent post yesterday.

I have recently started a new book, the second in my Weremyste Cycle, which will be published by Baen under my own name. And though I am now several chapters into the novel — close to 20,000 words — I have not yet completed an outline of the book.

All of you who have been reading my posts here at MW know that I am a dedicated planner, or at least have been in recent years. I have posted several times about the benefits of outlining a novel, of knowing where a story is going so that we can introduce themes, foreshadow plot points, plant the seeds of the twists and turns that will make our narratives capture the imaginations […]

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On Writing: Outlining Vs. Pantsing Revisited

This week I will begin writing Dead Man’s Reach, the fourth book in the Thieftaker Chronicles. For those of you who are fans of the series, don’t panic. Book three, A Plunder of Souls, is not yet out and won’t be for close to a year. Authors are almost always at least a full book ahead of the publication schedule. On the other hand, if you haven’t yet read book two, Thieves’ Quarry, all I can say is what the hell are you waiting for…?

I spent part of last week outlining the book, and thought that I would return to the subject of outlines and pantsing, since it is something that still comes up quite a bit on this site and also in panels. I know that we talk about there being no single right way to do any of this, and I still believe that. But in this […]

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Mistakes I Made Part V: Pantsing

Yes, I saved the big one till last. After months of bewailing all the things I did wrong in my quest for publication, I’m winding up in a blaze of controversial glory. I was a teenaged pantser. Now I’m not and I’m more successful as a result. All usual MW claims about this being subjective and there being lots of ways to publication aside, I’m convinced that pantsing slowed me down big time and made for inferior work.

Couple of clarifications: “Pantsing,” for those who don’t know, is “writing by the seat of your pants,” in other words, not “plotting” or outlining your work before you start to write. In real terms, of course,–and this is where my bold start has to be nuanced a bit—the implied binary here is an over simplification. We should think of the difference between pantsing and plotting as an infinite set of grey shades […]

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