G is for Guest Post — Plotting vs. Pantsing with Michelle Proulx

For today’s A-Z Challenge entry, Pete asked me to share with you all my thoughts on Plotting vs. Pantsing. And thus, I shall.

In the eternal battle between Plotting and Pantsing, I come down firmly … somewhere in the middle. I keep trying to ally with one side or the other, but they inevitably reject me due to my mutinous tendencies. I shall now elaborate on this concept. Prepare yourself.

Planning has never really been my thing. In fact, probably my least favourite sentence to hear from another person is, “So, what’s your plan for today?” Argh! I always have a vague idea of what I want to do, of course, but if I formalize my plans verbally or on paper, I feel trapped, like I’ve suddenly lost the freedom to be spontaneous. And the instant I feel that way, I immediately begin to come up with ways to avoid following the plan I just committed to. I’m self-destructive like that.

This, obviously, makes writing a novel a little tricky. But I’ve found ways to cope, with varying degrees of success. Ready to take a peek inside my brain? It’s not a trip for the weak-minded. Still reading? All right. Let’s do this!

So my basic strategy with writing consists of the following steps:

  1. Have an idea
  2. Write down the idea
  3. Start writing the story
  4. Realize I don’t like where the story is going
  5. Stop writing
  6. Take a long walk, refine my idea
  7. Continue writing the story
  8. Realize I don’t like where the story is going
  9. Stop writing
  10. Take a long walk, refine my idea

Et cetera. As you’ll see, there’s a lot of walking around and thinking involved in my process—it’s a wonder I get anything written at all. So I suppose you could say I’m somewhat of a Plotter, in that I do have a loose grasp on what’s going to happen next, due to the entire scenes I act out in my head during these walks. But I can’t actually write these ideas down in any sort of formalized outline, because if I do, I will be consumed with an overwhelming need to rebel and take the story in a completely different direction.

Once the first draft is finally finished (note: this takes forever), I set it aside for a few months, and then come back to it and read it over. I then make a few tweaks and give it to my mother, who proceeds to tear apart the draft and informs me that it has a lot of potential, but that it needs work. Meaning: it needs to be re-written. Not all of it, obviously, but enough to make me want to bang my head against a table for a good hour or so.

Unfortunately for me, this is the most important stage in my writing—the re-write—because it forces me to take a hard look at my baby and realize that it’s not perfect, and that it can be improved. So I take a few long walks, watch movies, read books—generally get inspiration from wherever I can find it—and then come up with a plan. Ack. There’s that word again. Plan.

So, plan in head, I roll up my sleeves, tear my story apart, remove huge chunks, add huge chunks, and shove it back together in a vague semblance of what it once was. But as much as I hate this step, I have to do it, because the story ends up tighter, and cleaner, and better than before—and isn’t that the end goal of editing?

HIGH RES COVERThe amount of re-writing I have to do seems to be inversely proportional to the amount of walking and thinking I do prior to writing the story. With my first novel, Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight into It, I had a very good idea of what I wanted to happen, so the re-write mainly consisted of adding a few scenes and tightening up the wording. And the resulting story, in my humble opinion, is quite excellent. Whereas with the sequel to Imminent Danger (whimsically titled Chasing Nonconformity), I didn’t really know what I wanted my characters to get up to when I wrote the first draft, so they basically wandered around a bunch and had assorted shenanigans. However, I have decided there needs to be an actual plot, so now I’m re-writing the entire last third of the book so that stuff actually, you know, happens.

And that, my friends, pretty much sums up my writing process. You can decide for yourself whether I’m a Plotter or a Pantser. I like to think of myself as the Switzerland of writing, but everyone knows that, in a protracted battle, no side can remain neutral forever. One day soon, I’ll have to declare myself to one side or the other. And when that ultimatum comes, I shall proudly declare myself to be a P—

>>Error.

>>Signal lost.

>>Message terminated.

>>Ha. Ha. Ha.

MichelleProulx_newphoto.jpgMichelle is the author of Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight into It, a fun, flirty, fast-paced YA Sci-Fi book about alien abduction, space pirates, true love, betrayal, and epic battles that determine the fate of Earth itself, although not necessarily in that order.

Follow her hilariously inept attempts at self-publishing via her WordPress blog, or on Facebook. For more information about Imminent Danger, including links on where to buy it, hit up her website.

My thanks to Michelle for agreeing to Guest Post. Another vote for … wait. Damn lost connections. 🙂

*

A2Z-2013-BADGE

This is the G post for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. A list of all the posts can be found here.

I thought I would still add a picture for today even though it was a Guest Post. Today’s shot is the Golden Gate Bridge from back in 1990.

Golden Gate Bridge - San Fransisco

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About Michelle Proulx

Hi. I'm Michelle. I love sappy romances and space operas, so I wrote a book about them. It's fairly ridiculous, and involves alien abduction, a heart-throb mercenary prince, laser guns, six-armed lizard men with a curious predilection for the colour blue, and an out-of-her-depth high school girl trying to find her way back home. It's awesome. You should read it. I am also very fond of bacon and cheesecake, although not at the same time.
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25 Responses to G is for Guest Post — Plotting vs. Pantsing with Michelle Proulx

  1. Pete Denton says:

    Thanks again for agreeing to Guest On my blog and giving me one extra day off the A to Z Challenge!

    I like the idea of exercise to work through you stories. Good on both counts. 🙂

    • My pleasure 🙂 Considering that walking through the park is the only exercise I would otherwise get, it is an integral part of both my writing and my not-becoming-morbidly-obese processes.

  2. Thanks for introducing us to Michelle. It’s nice to hear that other people walk/write.

    • What’s your preferred walking style? Do you walk with a purpose (e.g., eventual goal = cafe), or do you just wander aimlessly? I find that both are quite viable idea-starters, depending on the situation 🙂

      • I usually walk around the block (1.2 miles) if the weather is nice. If it’s cold or raining, I walk in circles in my office. I have a treadmill but I can’t think and walk on it without falling down.

        • Hahaha that’s awesome. I’ve never tried thinking/walking on a treadmill, although I have attempted it on an elliptical machine. The problem is more than half my brain’s focused on exercise, so my “deep thoughts” can’t really do much planning, plot-wise.

  3. Reblogged this on Michelle Proulx – The Blog and commented:
    G is for Guest Post — specifically, my guest post on Pete Denton’s blog!

  4. Sue says:

    I am defantly a panster, except when did NaNo had to plot. Eventually I do consider plot and format and how do I get to the end. Taking a screen writing class. I see you’ve written scripts. It’s difficult course as have to plot first.

    • Yeah, in writing classes (screen writing or otherwise) they have an unfortunate habit of making you plan before you write 😀

      • Hey Michelle, don’t be too hard on the writing instructors. They have to follow THE PLAN i.e. course outline. You are a creative spirit who is trapped in a body, living in a world filled with over 95% uncreative spirits trapped in their bodies. Thank God you’re one of the AWESOME few.

  5. jess says:

    I need structure. I never feel trapped by it; in fact, having guidelines makes me feel free to write fast and let my characters lead, since they’re very aware of the guidelines. We don’t mind getting off the path a little either. 🙂 Good post!

  6. We are all different in the way we write – except me. I am a confirmed Pantser, with the only evidence of my only subtle sidling towards planning being the determination that my novel will end with a fixed event, one that will be fixed and immovable….unless I think of a better one. 😀

    • Hahaha love the add on there — unless I think of a better one 😀 That’s exactly what’s been happening to me with the Imminent Danger sequel. I started off convinced there’d be an epic fakeout with false identities and broken hearts and twisted dreams, and then I got to the conclusion and I was like … nope. Lame. New ending needed.

      • If you can backtrack two or three chapters, then play out the possibilities; try out new threads. Play out even the lame ones until you’ve exhausted all the permutations. Your Muse may tip you a hint and give you what I sometimes get – a revelation that makes me smile. 😀

  7. ocdreader says:

    The few things I have written are slightly plotted, but also pantsed. I like your process! 🙂

  8. elwoodcock says:

    I too take a lot of long walks when I don’t know where my story’s going. And yeah, I am familiar with feeling trapped by having too much of a plan, and wanting to rebel against it!

    • Found any solutions to the being trapped by a plan thing? Because I feel like outlining would actually be a really great way to plan stories, but I can’t get over that trapped feeling, and it’s very inconvenient!

  9. katemsparkes says:

    Your process sounds a lot like mine. I have to know where things are going and will usually have a few ideas for stops along the way, but the details have to work themselves out along the way, or it feels contrived… which it is, but never mind that. Things might go off-course at any time; sometimes it works, sometimes the side-trips get scrapped. That’s what revisions are for.

    I know your mom’s critiques can be frustrating, but you’re very fortunate to have a relative who will give you a really honest and detailed opinion. I don’t even have any friends who will do that, and have to seek out dark and mysterious strangers to do the dirty work for me. 🙂

  10. Pete thanks for introducing us to Michelle. Michelle, very interesting to hear about your process. My stance is that as long as it works, do it. 🙂 No matter if you pants, plot, or plants or something in between.

  11. I mujst take more walks then! Love the strategy steps!

    • Walks are awesome. I used to hate them, but that was because the walks were actually hikes, and the hikes were actually treks up mountains in the boiling hot summer heat where slipping off the trail meant falling to your death.

      I had a traumatic childhood. 😀

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