Thursday, July 13, 2006


My answer to Jody's question in the last comment trail got me to thinking.

Conventional wisdom is that there are writers who plot everything before writing (plotters), writers who fly by the seat of their pants (often called "pantsers" but I prefer the seldom-used "flyers"), and hybrids who do both.

I'm a bit of a hybrid, but I almost never plot very far ahead. The books I have enjoyed writing most were books that I completely flew through, mainly because of the surprises that came up.

Some people assert, without allowing any flexibility at all, that a good suspense/mystery book CANNOT be written if it's not all plotted out in advance.

I say that's bunk.

Sure, there are writers, even writers who are normally flyers, who can't do it. And it certainly seems smarter and more logical to do it that way. But I've written several books with plots that contained secrets that I didn't know in advance. In one book, I didn't even know who the villain was until more than halfway into the book.

Some would point out that I said GOOD books, and that maybe my books written via the soaring method are not good. Maybe they have disconnects, and unfollowable clues, and lapses in logic. Maybe they do--it's often hard to judge your own work, of course.

But I don't think they do. "Flying" does not mean "scatterbrained." I write for a while, go back and revise and think ahead a little bit, write for a while more, hit an "ah-HA!" moment and go back to see where I need to seed clues, or make adjustments to events or backstory. I also, as I mentioned in an earlier post, have a subconscious layer to my writing, which lays in things without my knowing why, that later come to fruition. Maybe not all writers have that layering in their creative process, or maybe they're not in tune to that level of thought, or maybe the plotters are TOTALLY in tune to it and that's why they get it all up front.

The point is (yes, heh, I do have a point, not just rambling for fun LOL)...the point is that every writer has a different process, a different ability, and NO ONE should ever say that a way CAN'T be done or MUST be done. You do a lot of damage with those kinds of remarks.


Erica Orloff said...

Hi Natalie:
I sell on five- to ten-page proposals now, which means a lot of leeway between what I've sold and what gets written. I usually start at word one and finish when I write The End, and I never outline. That said, the brain is an amazing thing--and so inevitably, as I am working through my book, possibilities will pop up that, for me, if I had outlined, might not otherwise. Because I'm not locked in for direction, I can choose to throw a few curves, which I think makes for more surprises and twists and turns. But the bottom line is what works for you. I'm happy the way I am even though I know it's gotten me some weird looks at conferences when I've shared my supposed method.
P.S. And I HATE pantser as a term because to me it implies you don't care abut craft and you're just wining it--which isn't true for me at all.

Natalie Damschroder said...

I hate pantser because it sounds like someone who pulls other people's pants down. :)

I've written a few proposals for submission for books I didn't want to finish before I tested the publisher (including the last two Bombshell rejects!) and I think we have really similar methods. My problem though, when I start to do the synopsis for a proposal, is that I end up trying to write the scenes, putting in huge amounts of detail. LOL Then the story loses its luster for me. So...balance is what I'll have to strive for.

Typing Slave said...

The few times I outlined early in a bok-length project, it lost its luster. I have ok luck outlining when I'm stuck in the slumpy middles. A few times I even popped ahead at that point and wrote the ending with moderate success.

Pantser is a better term than winger. That one is both the name of a lame 80's glamrock band and one letter off of 'wanger'.

Cassidy Kent said...

Unrelated comment, but I just wanted to congratulate you on the beautiful cover for Indulgence! I think that's one of the nicest Trace covers to date. If a picture paints a thousand words, that cover at least says "buy me"! Haha... Anyway, congratulations to you. I hope it does very well.

Natalie Damschroder said...

Thanks so much, Cassidy! I totally agree with you. Trace does magic. :)

And Jody, "winger" also makes me think "Debra." LOL