Plots, Pants, And Flows

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Writers have heard this over and over again.

Some people are plotters, detailing out their stories before writing.

Some people are pantsers, charging ahead writing with little or no outline.

Some people are “plantsers” walking a line between both.

Though these are convenient ways to classify writers, they’re limited. These classifications are much like the classic and oft-mocked D&D alignment chart – interesting originally, but restrictive in the end. Are any of us one of the above all the time, in all of our writing?

As of late I’d struggled with my latest novel – I tend to more of a “plotter,” but it hadn’t quite worked for me. At the same time, pantsing or “plantsing” didn’t work for me either. I felt disconnected from my work, my writing lacked an intimacy.

This had rarely happened with my nonfiction work. Indeed, it seemed I could step into that work with ease for the most part. This wasn’t surprising, as I’ve done mostly nonfiction the last decade – a second novel being a challenge presented no surprise.

So as I meandered towards a solution, I decided to replot a troublesome chapter. This suddenly awakened my imagination, that intimate connection with one piece of my work to the exclusion of all else. Everything felt alive.

Then, I took a look at authors I knew with both challenges and lacks of challenges. Those who had trouble with their works had lost a connection with it, from not liking it to fearing audience reaction to not caring. Writers with few troubles felt an intimate connection to their work – it could be love of characters or joy in “mechanizing” a story, but it was intimate.

My rewrite of a single chapter felt more intimate. That told me what I’d been missing – I’d let so many things distract me from my work. Replotting a chapter reconnected me.

Looking at my past works I could see when works had been easy, I had a sense of intimacy and connection. I had made books on potentially boring subjects and had been absolutely enjoying it. I write many worldbooks and those involved a well-polished system, and it’s fun.

So let’s stop thinking about pants, plotting, and “plantsing.” Let’s ask what methods keep us connected to our works and intimate with our goals. Maybe one time we plot, maybe one time we “pants,” and another time we do something else.

If you’re not feeling connected to your work, then it’s time to switch up how you do things. Who knows, you might invent an new way to classify writers we can all misuse . . .

Steven Savage