A Pantser Tries to Plot and...It's Not All Terrible!
If you're my good friend Vanessa, you'll know about my writing style: I'm an absolute, dyed-in-the-wool, not-gonna-change-my-mind pantser in the EXTREME. Aka, I will not plot if it saves my life. I will leave myself "breadcrumbs" as I write: at the end of each writing session, once I know the bare bones of where I want to go next, I leave some all-caps instructions for myself to follow the next day.
But that's as close to plotting as I go.
Except for my latest, which I'm tentatively calling my SABRINA book because the idea behind it is something of a mishmash between SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH and FRIENDS: a bunch of adults living and loving in New York City and one of them has magical/super powers (the nature of which I won't divulge right now) and there are shenanigans.
There are five main characters, many of them ~randomly~ having Italian or pseudo-Italian backgrounds (who woulda guessed, am I right?), and I've spent the past few months writing my book without putting down a single word of manuscript.
How does that work? Well, my friends, this pantser has been PLOTTING UP A STORM.
I've got character-background pages and I'm refusing to pen a word until I know where the story is going.
Partly, this is because the style (third-person past, ensemble cast), age category (adult) and genre (contemporary fantasy) of this book are different from what I've written recently, so I want to help myself as much as possible.
And partly, it's because I'm writing this as an exercise in stretching myself, getting out of my comfort zone and maybe smashing through the rigid box I feel like I've put myself into, writing-wise.
Have I talked about the box yet? It's something I've been experiencing in my "real" life as well, where I just had all these expectations for myself and strongly held beliefs about how my life should go that I sacrificed so much in order to attain it and...it wasn't worth it.
But I feel like I boxed myself in as well in my writing. I was a personal essayist, not a journalist, a YA novelist, not a literary one. I wrote books for teens, not adults, and I wrote about myself, not others. And while those are fine things, good things, I began to feel choked by my own expectations for myself.
So I'm trying to get out of the box. I left New York and am going to Italy for three months. And I'm writing a different kind of book, in a different kind of way.
I thought I would hate plotting, thought it would make me feel super stifled and antsy. When I write, I don't want to sit around thinking about what I'm going to write. I want to go on an adventure, discover the plot as my characters do, be surprised by the ending like my readers (hopefully) will.
For the longest time, I believed plotting took the adventure out of it. And I'm still a noob when it comes to it, of course, I'm still brand-new to this process, so we'll talk more about it later, but for now...for now, it's not stifling me at all.
It's almost freeing. I'm able to think through and be intentional about my characters, about the traits they have, the physical mannerisms they exhibit, the things that make them angry or happy or sad. It'll probably make the revision process easier, because I (maybe) won't be discovering new facts about them 80% through and then have to spend an entire revision weaving that back into the story.
And when it comes to the story, I'm going to know where I'm going. I might not know every pit-stop along the way, every twist and turn of the road, but I'll figure out the general direction. Especially because I have this idea lurking in the back of brain that maybe, just maybe, this book can turn into more than one book. A fun, lighthearted series about a reluctant superhero and her friends, set in my favorite city. It's the kind of story I'd love to spend a lot of time with, and I think the only way to make that possible is to plot a little bit.
We'll see how it goes once I leave the characters and delve into the story itself. For now, I'm liking my foray into the world of plots and outlines and plans. I'll keep y'all posted ;)