A guest post from Tim Baker
Being a subscriber to your emails for quite some time now, I have followed the “debate” on pantsing vs. planning with keen interest.
Mainly because I don’t know into which category I fall.
Your articles have caused me to put a great deal of thought into my methods, which is, more than likely, your intent, so in that regard you have succeeded. However, I remain unable to place myself squarely on either side of the fence.
I know that I am most assuredly not a planner, because I simply don’t plan my stories out completely before I start writing; the operative word being “completely.” I do start off with a general plan, a core group of characters, their individual contributions and a quasi-firm ending. Other than that, there is very little conscious planning.
Then again, I don’t think I’m 100% pantser either, because, as I said, I always have a general idea of where the story is going as I am writing it. I know what the conflict is, how it will affect each character, what sub-plots and back stories need to be created and I usually have most of the key plot-points in mind. I always know each character’s role in the story and I usually have a fairly good idea of how the story will end.
I suppose one reason for my method, or lack thereof, is that I became a writer by accident. My true profession, since 1980, has been in the Architectural field, and your recent installment about pace struck a chord with me since you used Architecture as an analogy for planning (definitely not a stretch).
I’m one of those guys who has always had a love of “the story” and one day I got tired of reading them and decided to write some of my own.
If it’s possible, I may have picked up some “tips” on writing by osmosis from the authors I read, but I have never had any formal training in crafting a story (your articles notwithstanding).
That being said, I’ve written four novels and have two in progress. The first was released in July of 2009; the second will be released in October of this year. I may not be a household name, yet, but my first novel, “Living the Dream,” has been very well received and the beta-readers who have read my second book, “Water Hazard” have been very pleased with it.
Ironically, despite my life-long love of Architecture, which includes the meticulous planning and attention to detail, I don’t apply much of it to my writing.
At least not consciously.
I approach story writing as if it were a long road trip with a general destination and a semi-established route. Along the way there are stops to make, with various priority levels attached to each. If I happen to discover an alternate route that will be more enjoyable, I’ll take it. Most importantly, there is always the chance that the trip will not unfold the way I had envisioned it, in which case I may alter some or all of the stops or even the destination itself. Other times I may just turn around, go home and think about another trip altogether.
To hard-core planners this may seem like a waste of time and energy, but I can’t seem to get comfortable doing it any other way. I guess it doesn’t hurt that I enjoy the “re-write” process almost as much as I enjoy the initial writing.
Also ironic, is that I attribute my approach to writing directly to my Architectural training.
To make a long story short, I had a professor for “Architectural Detailing” in college by the name of Gordon Andersen.
Professor Andersen had a very difficult task. Teaching a bunch of “know-nothing” kids how to anticipate and resolve construction problems months before the first shovelful of dirt was even moved.
Suffice to say that he was greeted by many blank expressions – deer in headlights would be an understatement.
His advice; Draw something. After you draw it, take a look at it and see what’s wrong with it, because there will always be something wrong with it. Then figure out how to make it better. Then do it again.
This method got me through college and it worked for me in nearly thirty years of “real-world” application. It also seems to work for me in my writing.
So my point, should anybody care, is that I would like to suggest a third category of writer.
Part planner/part pantser.
It is where I fall, and I would hate to think that I am alone there. If I am, I’ll be establishing a copy-right and applying for a patent!