Building momentum as a recovering pantser

January 12, 2018

Building momentum as a recovering pantser, plotting, plotter, prewriting, writing life, writing process

Since committing to a couple of days of plotting — drawing out plot points, making character sketches, and so on — I’ve spent the better part of last week ripping through four chapters.

I’m loving this.

Every time I sit down to write a chapter, I know where to start with characters and scenery and, even more important, where to finish.

I acknowledge how elementary this sounds, but in truth, how many of us, especially pantsers, do this? How many of get lost in our own story and not know where it’s going?

Writing Process, Prewriting, Pantser, Plotting, Plotting,
After plotting the story, I’m writing with more confidence than before.

It’s okay to admit it. That’s the first step to correcting the problem.

I write now with a few documents in front of me, including character sketches, to remind me what my own story roadmap says.

Another way plotting how been advantageous is how themes have emerged in more crystallized form. During previous pantser drafts, I kinda sorta knew the themes which threaded the story together — fathers and adult sons, hiding difficult truths from one another, our journey to letting go — but after plotting the story, those themes have become more evident and mature.

Feels like the story is transitioning from adolescence to adulthood.

One more way plotting has helped, and this is admittedly trivial — I don’t write with music on anymore.

During my pantser days, I would listen to music by ambient electronic artists like Ulrich Schnauss, General Fuzz, and Tycho to get me into the creative mood. Then as I began to type, I kept the music on.

I believed it helped. It did not.

Creative NonFiction, Writing Life, Pantser, Plotting, Plotter, Prewriting
The themes and character development in my creative nonfiction novel have matured thanks to plotting.

Instead, listening to music while storytelling ended up becoming a distraction as my mind paid attention to what came through my headphones instead of what my fingers typed on the screen.

When you have adult ADHD, this becomes at times a crippling problem, and I had to stop it.

After spending days plotting my story and beginning to write earnestly, I would notice after several hours how long I’d been writing without the tonic of music. Two hours seemed to pass like a snap of the fingers.

My only regret is I didn’t start plotting earlier.

Now I head into my first post-plotting weekend confident and without panic because even if I only get 15 minutes of writing time on Saturday, I know exactly where I am in the story. And this is enormously reassuring.

I’m four chapters into this new draft, and a I even have a new book title. Just not gonna share it yet. I want it to percolate in my mind before I do

Have you transitioned from pantser to plotter? How did it go? I would love hear your stories and insights, what’s worked and what didn’t. Leave a comment, won’t you?

Happy storytelling, my friends!

Dave is a professional writer and photographer from Lancaster, Pa. His writing podcast, Creatively Genuine, is available on iTunes and Google Play.

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