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Plantsing

There’s all sorts of writers out there, and all sorts of “rules” writers are supposed to follow in order to be “real” writers.

To which I say: bullshit.

Everyone has their own process, and the important thing is to find out what works for you and go with it. If something doesn’t work? Toss it and try something else. Trial and error is the way to go, and eventually, you’ll find the way that works. My point in writing that out is to say that it took me a long time to figure out my process, the way things worked best for me and made it so I was able to write a story.

I’ve been writing stories since I was ten years old. Of course, I had dreams of becoming a famous author and being rich. As I grew up, it morphed into dreams of just being published. And the more I learned about the whole process, the more I realized that it was highly unlikely I’d ever be rich. And just as unlikely that I’d ever be able to make it my sole income.

But when I was a wee baby author, newly published and on the high of that, I knew I wanted to do it more than just occasionally. That first short story was my gateway drug and I knew all the voices in my head had stories that needed to be told.

So I followed those so called rules, and I failed at most of them, and I felt like an idiot who would never publish again. I couldn’t make a story come to life if I wrote every day, or if I just wrote and wrote, and didn’t edit at all until I was done. (These are just two of those “rules” and there are many, many more).

The truth is, there are no rules. There is only what makes it so I can put words on the page. I don’t write every day, and I edit as I go along. I write when the muse strikes, and I listen to the voices in my head that sometimes take me where I didn’t know I was going.

Which brings me to the title of this post. Authors often label themselves as plotters (as in they work the whole story out, plan all the beats, before they even start writing) or pantsers (as in they fly by the seat of their pants and make the whole thing up as they go along). But there’s another subset of us that are often referred to as plantsers (which no, is definitely not the best word).

For me, that means I get an idea for characters or a scene, and I mull on it, try to figure out if it strikes the muse’s fancy (for she is a fickle bitch) and see if the story can come to life in my head. If it does, then I start plotting. Except…it’s a barebones plot. Usually by chapter, a few sentences, maybe a paragraph, of the mood I want to invoke, the beats I want to hit, the high points. I work through the whole book that way and usually can spot plot holes or if the idea I have is going to work at all.

Then I take that barebones plot and I start writing. But here’s where the pantsing comes in…because even though I have an idea of what I want to accomplish with each scene and chapter, I don’t know how I’m going to get there. Until I start letting the characters live and breathe on the page that is. They tell me how they talk and think, and then the story takes off. Within the framework of what I’ve already built, the story has a mind of it’s own.

Sometimes it does what I expect. Sometimes it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t, then that’s just fine. If I need to rework things as I go—add new plot points or get rid of others—then that’s what I do. And I read and reread and go through it all, over and over again, as I’m writing. This ensures that when I finally finish the story, I’m nearly on the final draft (though it gets a few more passes with tweaks and edits and polish after that). And also that the story works, which is the most important thing of all. Because I’m not one who can take a pile of words and rewrite them all to make it work. It needs to happen as I go along.

So yes, I plot and I pants. My characters absolutely have their own voices and own minds, and all I can do is go along and tell their story. I’m working on Cauldron Creek 2 right now, and because I have that barebones plot, I think it’s going to work.

As so will the rest of the series.