Please give a warm welcome to our first guest blogger, Victoria Grace Howell! Tori is a fellow speculative fiction writer whom I met last year through the monthly Beautiful People link-up. I was thrilled when she suggested today’s topic, since it immediately resonated with me – because like Tori, I’m not a plotter or a pantser, but a “plontser.” Never heard of a plontser before? I’ll let Tori explain…. 😉
When I first started writing, I discovered pretty soon into the game that there are two types of writers: plotters and pansters. Plotters like J.K. Rowling plan out each event meticulously and know everything that happens in their stories before they write them. Pantsers like Stephen King know hardly anything about the story when beginning to write and discover as they go. My first choice was a panster. I liked seeing where the story took me, but as I soon came to realize, in my spontaneous writing my story lacked structure and a secure plot.
At this point, I was torn. I had to choose one, right? Wrong.
Years later, fantasy author Jill Williamson introduced me to the blog Go Teen Writers. She co-writes the site with contemporary writer Stephanie Morrill, and she is a plonster. She likes to plot a little and then write, and not be afraid to let the story grow on its own.
I could almost hear a Hallelujah chorus.
Plonsters (also known as plotsers, plansters, or hybrids) are writers that like to both plot and pants (write by the seat of their pants or write organically). Here are five things that have helped me as a plonster:
1. Get Your Characters and Story World Straight
One thing that’s saved me a lot of headache is at least getting a basic idea of both my characters and the story world. Character-wise, I like to think of basic appearance, six personality traits (three good, three bad), and a goal for each of my main characters before beginning. Then, as I write, I let them tell me more about themselves. Here’s an example from one of my WIPs Red Hood and its protagonist Mor:
Description: Medium height, olive skin, brown eyes, brown hair kept in a braid, wears a red cloak, and uses axes and a pistol as weapons.
Personality Traits: Courageous, determined, loyal, stubborn, reckless, inconsiderate.
Goal: Become a legendary Red Hood.
Sometimes the character’s nature will alter from what I had in mind, but I at least know what my characters want. This trims down the problem of having unnecessary characters fast. While writing Red Hood, I originally thought of including Dina’s younger sister in the merry band that treks across the land of Silfurlund. But I quickly found out she doesn’t have a goal in that situation and would weigh down the others and convolute the plot.
Concerning the story world, I like thinking of the time period, basic environment, residents, government, and the technology / magic system. Here’s what I thought for Silfurland in Red Hood:
- Time Period: Roughly 1850s.
- Environment: Scotland / Iceland Mix
- Residents: Humans
- Government: Queendom
- Technology / Magic System: Steam and Red Hood magic consisting of Braith, the ability to mimic werewolf powers
Often I’ll discover more of the world as I go, but these basic things will affect much of how even the plot goes. Remember that setting can be an obstacle for your characters.
2. The Three Act Structure
This simple outline has worked wonders for me. It’s structured enough to give landmarks so you don’t get stuck or lost, but vague enough so not every detail is needed. It includes the skeleton and basic progression of a story. I’ve been outlining my books with this structure for the past few years, and it’s been perfect for the plonster in me.
3. Leave Your Research for the Second Draft
I don’t research until my second draft. Why? Because when I go over with the first round of edits, that’s when I discover what research I need. This also helps me from getting overwhelmed by research and worrying about being accurate beforehand, and lets me have freedom then I tweak the inconsistencies later.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Stray From Your Original Plan, But Don’t Let It Get Too Out of Control
One thing I’ve seen pansters have a problem with is losing their plot. I believe keeping to a basic outline like the one I mentioned above prevents that from happening without feeling stifled. Sometimes it’s good to stray from the original path. The best scenes can be ones written spur of the moment. But don’t let the main part of the story get lost with it, or you’re in for a world of work.
5. The Ratio of Plotting and Pansting per Book May Change
This all varies by what genre of book you’re writing, what age group you’re going for, and even just the story itself. Historicals are going to take a lot more planning than say a contemporary. Speculative fiction tends to land in the middle, since you can completely make stuff up. You may have to alter your writing system per book you write, but that’s OK. Every book is unique!
In the end, it’s all about finding your groove as a writer. This may take a lot of tries and fails, and your method may change over time as you discover new ways to make your process easier. Find a method that works for you and allows you to write a good book in an efficient amount of time. You can do it!
How about you? Are you a plotter, panster, or plonster / plotser? What do you do to help yourself with your “style” of writing?
ABOUT OUR GUEST BLOGGER:
Victoria Grace Howell is an award-winning, twenty-something aspiring novelist of speculative fiction hailing from Atlanta, Georgia. When she’s not writing or blogging, she’s drawing her characters, practicing Kung Fu, or enjoying some anime while sipping a hot cup of tea.
Interested in guest posting here in the future? Check out my guest posting policy before contacting me to see if your idea might be a good fit.