Plotting vs. Pantsing. Who has the perfect recipe?
It always starts the same way…a love scene in my mind between the hero and heroine. There is passion and a hint of anger. What is not present is the story that binds it all together into a manuscript. This is how I’ve written eight of my nine manuscripts, a vision that stretches into a story. There are always a lot of starts and stops. Rewrites and rewrites. So this epitome of pantsing, is it really so bad if I have the discipline to make it right in the end?
In my day job as a multimedia representative, one of the things I do is to give classes to Realtors on how to write ads. As I tell them, “What’s an ad, but the home’s story? Describe the home and all the possibilities so that someone can actually picture themselves living there.”
I use my own home as an example. It is predominantly decorated in butter yellow, sage green and geranium red. But you don’t stop with that description; you take it to the next level. “With the colors of Tuscany throughout, you’ll be able to vacation in your own dream cottage as you embrace the warm butter yellows, cool sage greens and vibrant, passionate red accents…”
I tell my Realtors that it is like baking a cake. Without the correct ingredients, added in the right order, what do you have? (Have you tried adding sugar to the cake batter right before it goes into the oven instead of creaming it with the butter? Bad idea. You’ll soon realize your mistake when your cake comes out of the oven with a caramel burnt bottom.)
Just like a little ad that tells the story of a house, writing a book should be done in the proper sequence. Map out the plot; know your characters down to their birthdays, eye color and personality traits. Watch your character arc, make sure it spikes in just the right spot. Know the goal, motivations, yadda yadda…
Unfortunately for me, I don’t practice what I preach. Maybe pantsers don’t follow recipes, because they create recipes in their own unique way.
I realized late one evening that my office was having a potluck the next day. I didn’t want to go to the store, but a readymade store bought cheese platter was prevalent in my mind if I couldn’t pull something together with my sometimes well stocked pantry.
I opened the cupboard, grabbed salt water cured ripe green olives, artichoke hearts, Italian salad dressing mix, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and sundried tomatoes. From the fridge, I grabbed green and red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls. A few open cans later, a little draining in the strainer, a whack-whack of the knife, a brightly colored bowl purchased in Italy filled with items happily resembling the Italian flag in the colors of red, white and green… I had an “antipasti salad”.
I’ve made that salad half a dozen times, and it is always a crowd pleaser.
By the same token, I don’t follow the recipe when it comes to writing manuscripts. But, in light of having an agent, I have a strong desire to please and the need to raise the level of my proficiency when faced with limited time. Therefore, this pantser is going to try something different with manuscript number nine: I’m plotting.
But no matter if you are a pantser or plotter, embrace what makes your recipe a little different than everyone else’s. Now get cookin’!