I’m what is known in the writing community as a “pantser.” That means someone who is an organic writer, one who “writes from the seat of their pants.” Pantsers don’t make outlines or pre-write or make any sort of preparation before they write, they just start writing. We just jump into the river without looking and commence to swimming downstream, generally writing from beginning to end.
On the other side of the fence are the plotters. Before they ever get around to writing that first word in their story, they’ve done their preparations, created outlines, made up a bunch of 3×5 cards, scribbled on a white board the various turns and twists and with who knows what other information they feel is necessary to get things in order before they get down to the writing proper.
Pantsers and plotters do not get along. Its the literary equivalent of the Hatfield and the McCoys. Get enough writers together, throw in the topic of outlines, and before long, they’ll form up sides and begin to throw insults, eggs, and rotten tomatoes at each other. Each side believes its their way or no way at all and they’ll never see eye-to-eye. Its a feud that goes back to prehistoric days when two cavemen, Groo and Oop were tasked with painting the cave walls. Groo immediately set out drawing directly onto the wall, while Oop started to pre-write what he wanted in the sand. Oop criticized Groo for a misplaced antelope, “That not happen if you plot.” Groo took it badly and kicked at Oops writing in the sand. “That not happen if you paint on wall!” Blows were exchanged and the two started to grapple with each other. They fell to the ground, wrestled and rolled out of the cave where they were promptly eaten by a saber-toothed tiger.
For many years, I’ve been a true pantser. I’ve just picked up my fountain pen and started writing without any idea of anything. Like magic, the words would flow and I’d be completely surprised by what ended up on the paper. I’ve never tried to analyze how that happens, how I can write a complete story without knowing anything before hand. I’ve been afraid if I analyzed it, I’d lose it. (I once read back in the 1920s there was this champion-caliber golfer, who golfed like nobody’s business. He was, or so I read, that he was head and shoulders above all the other golfers at the time, with a gorgeous swing. A giant among duffers. Then one day, he was approached to write a “How to” book on his golf swing. He sat down and tried to analyze his swing, how he approached the game, and you know what? He over-analyzed it and actually lost whatever it was that made him so great. His analysis paralyzed his talent and he was never the same again.)
But my current project, which I have yet to write a word of, seems different to me. I’ve been letting it percolate in my head. I’ve already got a beginning scene, several action scenes, a few character sketches, all in my head. But things are beginning to overflow. I’m running out of room, so to speak, in my head and the other day I made a list of the characters who I expected to be in the story.
And keeping with the semi-plotter idea, I’m trying to figure out how the program “Shrivener” works, because I’m going to start writing each of those scenes — out of sequence — and that program looks like a convenient way to keep them organized.
So we’ll see how it goes. It’s a whole new concept for me, writing from prepared notes and pre-written scenes. I’m walking the fence, so to speak, between organic writing and plotting. With any luck, I’ll be able to perform that tightrope walk and I won’t slip, fall, and get eaten by a saber-tooth.