The Pros and Cons of Pantsing v. Plotting

This seems to be an age-old battle in the “Gosh I wish I was a published writer and had a sweet bunch of honeys that could hang off of my arm” world. If you are a pantser, you fly by the seat of your pants when writing. If you are a plotter, you plot things, as the name would suggest. Given that the Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing versus Traditional Publishing was so well-received, my lovely CP, Ashley, suggested I delve into the dark and mysterious world of Pants v. Plot.

The Pros of Plotting Your Novel From the Get-Go

  • What happens on page 36, paragraph 2, line 6? I don’t know, but you do because that shit is sorted, my son.
  • Plotting is like having a map made out of words. A Word Map if you will.
  • In theory this saves time, so you can get back to that cocaine habit that you promised yourself you’d get back into once the damn novel is finished.
  • Writing a series? Good news, you can plan out the whole thing, start to finish. Aren’t you efficient?
  • The aforementioned efficiency also means you’re probably going to create a stronger narrative faster. It’s like seeing the forest for the trees, only the forest is a person, and the trees are all the little points in their life that have become interwoven together and you, good sir and/or madam, see the whole picture now. Like some sort of God.
  • Rewrites? You don’t need rewrites. Rewrites are for peasants and sycophants.

The Cons of Plotting Your Novel Like the Perfect Crime

  • Oh wait, you totally do have to do rewrites. Sorry about that.
  • You’re going to get bored. I mean, like you really will. You’re going to be looking at the same post-its, the same Word Map, over and over for however long it takes for you to finish the novel. Yeah, those notes you scribbled six months ago? Should have written it in pencil, sucker. That point about the dog licking the ice cream cone and then getting hit by a car is here to stay.
  • Inspiration strikes! Too bad there is no room for this new, brilliant idea in your perfectly crafted 359 pages. Oh well, maybe next time.
  • You can get sort of obsessive over your ideas, which means you’ve probably told your buddy the same thing about the same scene over and over again because nothing ever changes.
  • Those dishes need to be done, you should probably do that before you do anything else.
  • And if you spill that coffee on your Word Map you are absolutely hooped.
  • You know, your desk is pretty messy. You can’t work in a messy space, can you? I didn’t think so!
  • If that inspiration is too strong to avoid, you’re going to have to start shifting everything around to fit it in. After all, it is perfect and must be included. Right after you grab a snack.
  • Hey, how many pencils do you think you can fit in your mouth at on- No! Stay focused! Focus, you bastard!
  • See, this is the problem when you know what happens next. Unless you’re high or drunk there is a huge lack of that zazzy spur of emotion you feel when you are just blindly mucking away at it. And now there’s a coffee ring on your desk. That’s why you use a coaster, you Neanderthal!

The Pros of Pantsing Your Way Through Life

  • You don’t have a stick up your ass. If you do, it is probably there for some reason completely unrelated to your writing methods.
  • Did that bird hitting the window inspire you to some metaphorical allegory about the Holocaust? Great, put that in there. That’s Pulitzer gold, I tell you.
  • No pants Friday? No pants every day!
  • You have a lot of freedom to do what you want, which is why ‘Murica is known primarily for its love of pants. Because freedom.
  • It’s a bit like forging your own way through a forest you’ve never been in before. There is a sense of exploration, but also danger. Is that a bear or a large tree trunk? Who knows! Are you about to run into a dead stump or get your brains scooped out and devoured like some poorly constructed Indiana Jones rip off? Who knows! That’s part of the fun!
  • No Inspiration? No problem! Put that sucker down and go make yourself coffee! You’re not obligated to finish jack squat until the inspiration strikes.

The Cons of Pantsing Your Novel and Then Leaving it, Crying on the Subway

  • Day 46 – Inspiration still has not struck.
  • You could always start a new novel, you know, until this one really takes off again. Yes! That’s a great idea!
  • Day 1,073 ; Number of new novels started: 863. Crap.
  • If you are a professional author and someone is paying you to write you will find there is a certain level of, shall we say, pressure to get it done? Have you finished yet? Have you finished yet? Have you finished yet? Have you finished yet?
  • Why yes, Professor Zildworth did marry the Countess Marie Duplath in chapter 16 after being eaten by an alligator in chapter 14 –wait, what? Where was I? Dear god, what tangled web have I created here? And who the hell is Horace? Why is Horace stabbing the kitchen maid to death with a limp trout?
  • You also run the risk of getting distra-Is that a coffee stain on your desk? Jesus, how many times do I have to tell you to use a coaster?
  • When someone asks you what your method is, you do have to use the word ‘pants’ several times and hope that they still take you seriously.

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