And yet, I think that secretly many plotters envy the freedom, spontaneity, and fun that is part of the pantser's writing life. I know I did. After having completed innumerable short stories and two novels as an almost scientific plotter, I abandoned that approach in 2001. I discovered that 1) it was more fun for me and 2) to quote Tolkien, "Not all who wander are lost."
Of course, I have three big advantages over many pantsers. First, through years of practice, I've got story structure woven into my thinking. No matter how wild my imagination is, plot points pull me back in like gravity. Second, I proceed with confidence. I know from past experience that even crazy random scenes are likely to find a place in the manuscript. (I also know that, since they were written quickly, I can part with paragraphs, pages, and chapters without lamenting the time invested.) Third, I have all my plotting tools clean and sharpened for rewriting.
I've seen pantsers, frustrated with blocks, stalls, and loss of productive time, shift into the world of plotting. Some succeed, even discovering that they are natural plotters, but some sacrifice too much. A few even give up writing.
I've begun to wonder, as I live as a convert among the pantsers, if I can provide the benefits of plotting to pantsers without taking away the advantages. As I said, pantsers:
- Seem to have more fun.
- Surprise readers because they surprise themselves.
- Give themselves permission to mess up, so they find happy accidents.
- Listen more to the characters.
- Contrive less.
- Work more organically.
- Hear the beat of the plot.
- Find alternate routes to the ending (scene, chapter, novel).
- Avoid blocks and stalls.
- Approach each writing session with confidence.
- Be more choosy about the stories they commit to.
- Demand more of their rewrites.