Has Plot, Can Pants

I’m working on a middle-grade traditional fantasy. I wrote the entire outline (a habit that my adult paranormal editor got me into, damn him), so it’s really a matter of connecting the dots to write the first draft. But even with the plot laid out in front of me in neat rows, sometimes the most incredible thing happens: the characters take over, and a new scene or chapter springs to life.

This just happened yesterday. The heroine (a witch) and her friend were racing back to town to try to stop a horde of fey creatures from wreaking havoc. They were supposed to get into town and dive right into it. But they wound up getting sidetracked. On the way into town is a farm, and the spelt fields were on fire. Why? It occurred to me that the fey (in my book) wouldn’t leave the fields untouched, so they set fire to them. So my heroine and her friend try to put out the fire before they race into town. What happens next  has the witch using her magic in a way that she never had before, and it was a pivotal moment of character growth. And it was all unplotted.

Plotting doesn’t mean there’s no room for pantsing–that is, for writing by the seat of your pants. Sometimes, it’s about trusting your characters to let them take control for a while…and then see what happens.

How many of you are plotters? Pantsers? Some combo of both?

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  1. 1. domynoe

    Total plotter here, BUT I give myself permission to change things if something better comes to me while writing. The way I plot allows for this, actually. I “build” up to my rough draft in stages, including a plotting form and an outline (just 2 of the stages my novels go through), and each stage needs to expand on the last. If I didn’t allow for changes, there would be no expansion.

  2. 2. S.C. Butler

    I plot the beginning and end, and nothing else. This isn’t because I don’t want to, but because I can’t. Writing would be a lot easier if my best ideas didn’t come three quarters of the way through the book (which means I have to change everything that came before).

  3. 3. Kelly McCullough

    Funny, Jackie,

    I wrote almost the same post over at Wyrdsmiths for very similar reasons about two days ago. I’ll have to link from over there to over here. I’m a hardcore plotter, but sometimes the plot is wrong.

  4. 4. Karen Wester Newton

    I used to say that no two writers worked alike. I am beginning to think no two books are written exactly alike. Most of the time I keep the plot in my head and just write, but sometimes I will think of something critical I want to do and so I keep a file called plot in every book folder, just like I have one called “characters” and another for “timeline.” I add to my background files as I work, but for some books I’m more organized than others.

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Jackie Kessler

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