In the first part of this post, we took a look at an author who lived and died by the plotter/planner method of crafting a novel—a method that had served him well more than once. But when we last saw this author, he’d just read a book on fiction writing that preached the polar opposite of the plotter/planner way: flying by the seat of your pants (aka, the pantser method).
So what did this author do? Did he just dismiss this blasphemous pantser drivel and stick to his guns as a plotter/planner?
Oh, at first the author did indeed resist, rolling his eyes at such a writing philosophy. The nerve of some people to criticize the ways of the plotter/planner!
But then he began to see some wisdom in the pantser method: free rein with creativity, letting characters run wild (and even being surprised by them sometimes), and never having to feel like you were chained to an outline or a detailed plot.
So he converted—all the way into the pantser camp, beginning with a story idea, some vague thoughts on the characters, and maybe a notion of how the story might end. From there, it was a wide-open highway that he’d ride to the finish, wherever it might take him. And, lo and behold, the pantser method worked. At one point of writing the story, the author got a major surprise when a secondary character killed a major character totally out of the blue, and was that something to see! Such pure, unbridled joy of creativity!
But as the author moved forward with his next story as a pantser, and then his next one, he realized that he’d evolved further—into a bit of a hybrid. No, maybe he didn’t meticulously plan out everything anymore, but even as he flew along by the seat of his pants at Mach 4 sometimes, he knew that he had already been working out some details in his mind. Plus he still had that ideas file where he compiled thoughts on the story, whether related to plot or characters or backstory or anything else.
And this method worked too!
So if you find the thought of writing by the seat of your pants to be terrifying, relax. Proceed as a plotter/planner. And if you think that plotting at a story ahead of time would be akin to having your writing muse bound and gagged and thrown onto the train tracks, then get on with your pantser ways and feel the freedom. Or maybe you like to ride the fence and live in the best of both worlds.
The point is, you can’t go wrong if what you do works for you. At the same time, be open to trying new things and learning and growing as an author. With every story you write, you’ll come closer to finding your own writing style—that sweet spot where you can most powerfully convey the tale you have in your heart. Oh, you’ll still have days when the words don’t flow onto the page, and maybe you’ll even bump into writer’s block at times.
But you’ll march onward as a plotter/planner, or fly onward by the seat of your pants, or maybe even ride onward as a fence-sitting hybrid, because it’s still your story and you know that you want to—have to—share it with the world.
So go do it in style—your style.