There must be 50 ways to draft your story: How do you plot vs how much do you pants?

Kathrin forwarded out a passionate and controversion Writer Unboxed post by Lisa Cron, saying that neither Pantsing nor Plotting was the best way to write a story. I took a read-through and immediately took issue with Lisa’s thesis; in my opinion she was setting up straw men for both Pantsers and Plotters, and though she provides some good advice for one way to draft a story, I don’t think it’s anything new or revolutionary, and in fact it sits somewhere closer to the pantser side of the spectrum.

That got me thinking about all the different ways you could prepare before writing a story. Very few of even the hard-core Pantser tribe would sit down and begin writing without even the glimmer of an idea picked out in their head beforehand, though it might be very interesting in a zen way to try that and see what comes out. And even if you’re plotter enough to try to get everything planned out beforehand except for the final text… what order do you tackle it in?

So I’m going to try to review how I prepared before writing a few of the stories I’m proud of writing at the moment:

Return to Civilization: This was one of the first ideas I got when I tried Holly Lisle’s ‘calling down lightning’ brainstorming idea, and so from there I had the general premise of an explorer returning to Sol system after a long trip, and running into robots who thought he was an alien because he didn’t have proper Earth citizen identification. I mulled over that much for a long time, including all my weeks at Odyssey, and finally felt I could start writing it once I realized it needed to be a funny piece. I don’t think I had much more about the character or the ending until I started typing.

Gotta Have That Look: (the first version.) I vividly remember that this was an A-Z challenge prompt from Nicki, and I saved it for my ‘Summer of Shorts’ Camp Nanowrimo challenge. The original challenge was more surreal and fantasy-ish, about a shop where you could literally buy body parts for yourself, but I knew I wanted to make it more sci-fi-ish, with genetic therapy injections, and I figured out that it had to be in high school, with a teenager who wanted to get a makeover to make himself the dream guy of his dream girl, except there’s a problem with one gene sequence he needs. Again, I don’t think I fleshed out the characters much before I started writing, and maybe that’s why I had to throw so much of the original plot out when I started again at Odyssey. 😉

The Storm Mirror: This started from another prompt, one I got online from a random prompt generator: a mirror, a seaside setting, and happiness. This time I planned it out a lot more before I started writing, though, working out what the mirror had to do with happiness and unhappiness, who had it and why she was using it, and established what my main character wanted in each act of the story and what was standing in his way.

The Angel’s Charlie: This was the first time I really plotted out a book in extensive detail, using the snowflake method. I had several pages of plot and character notes before I started writing. It’s also the first time I reached the end of my book still short on words to win NaNoWriMo, so I ended up writing a few teaser scenes for a possible sequel. 😛

What about you? If you’re a pantser, what do you generally want to know before you start writing? If you’re a plotter, what element of the story do you come up with first?

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