I’ve always been a plotter – or perhaps I should say always had been.
In the past in this blog, I’ve written about how I’m left-brained, how I love rules, how I think about my writing constantly, how I try to plan everything, and indeed, how I feel paralysed to start a work of fiction unless I know, at least in a broad sense, how it’s going to end.
That is to say, I’m probably the last person anyone would expect take the proverbial walk to the other side of the field.
And yet, to quote myself in a recent Tweet:
— Janna G. Noelle (@jgnoelle) February 6, 2013
How did it come to this? By virtue of each of the following:
- My novel-in-progress’s outline was created some eight years ago
- I took a six-year hiatus from writing
- I entered my 30s
- I had new life experiences
- My beliefs, attitudes, and changed/matured
- I was inspired by other people’s works
- I was uninspired by other works
I didn’t plan to start pantsing (indeed, to do so seems almost oxymoronic); rather, as the above Tweet suggests, it was a slow insinuation. By the time I realized just how far I’d veered off course, the idea of continuing to make daily forward progress had grown so much more appealing than that of stopping to fix my outdated outline.
— Janna G. Noelle (@jgnoelle) February 14, 2013
Having been pantsing for over a month now, I’ve learned a number of interesting lessons:
I’m actually still outlining. The only difference is these writing plans tend to be for events occurring much sooner in the plot (i.e. the next five pages rather than the last five pages) and I’m not writing any of them down save the occasional scratch note on a Post-It or the back of a bank envelope.
Pantsing requires a lot more thought. Most of my pre-existing daily thoughts about writing were about how to smoothly connect the dots between my various outlined scenes. Now, I don’t even have any pre-planned scenes to string together.
My progress – though forward – is choppy. How much time I have to think about writing each day is directly proportional to how busy I am at work. Some days are busier than others. And some scenes require more than just a day or two’s thought before I’m ready to write them.
I can trust my protagonist. She and I have been together for some time now – long enough that she’s developed a strong self-awareness, and no longer needs me to micro-manage her behaviours, dialogue, and motivations. She knows where she wants to be and will take us both there some kind of way.
It helps that I outlined first. My original outline isn’t a totally dead document: much of what’s in it is still going to happen, including the ending. I’m just travelling on uncharted service roads now to each stop along the way rather than tried and reliable highways.
It’s an adventure. To quote myself from Twitter yet again:
— Janna G. Noelle (@jgnoelle) March 5, 2013
It’s also scary as hell. I can foresee at least one major plot hole down the road as a result of changes I’ve made in the last month, and as yet have no idea how I’ll avoid it. As well, there are countless plot points I know are going to occur, but the through line that will link them all together is a mystery to me. I’m not used to just writing and hoping it will all somehow work out. I sometimes worry I’ll write myself right off a cliff.
Question: Have you ever tried batting for the other writing team? How did it turn out?