• Dana Ellington

"Do You Want to Play a Game" - Jig Saw Killer, Saw

Time to play, "Plotter or Pantser" - the game where you find out what type of writer you really are! (don't worry, no writer's were harmed in the playing of this game...yet)



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But seriously, when you tell a story, do you organize the details like Jig Saw planning out one of his schemes or wing it like a Zombie, just chomping on bits of the story as they come to you?


If it’s your first time putting words to page, you may not know so here’s a quick quiz to help you determine your approach. Answer TRUE or FALSE:


1. When planning a trip, I always make sure to have a tour guide.

2. On the shelves of my personal library, the books are methodically organized.

3. I always make a grocery list before shopping.

4. I panic when I get lost.

5. When going out to eat at a specific restaurant, I research the menu online beforehand.

6. My sock drawer is categorized by color.

7. I have my clothes for work laid out and ready to go the night before.

8. I MapQuest everything including my trips out to the backyard shed.

9. The sheets in my linen closet (even the fitted ones) look like they have been meticulously folded by Martha Stewart.

10. The inside of my car is free of clothing, books, sports gear, fast-food wrappers, crushed soda cans, and empty Starbucks coffee cups.


Questions copied from Writer's Relief website.

"Writer: Are You a Plotter or a Pantser"

September 23, 2019


If you answered with mostly FALSE, you’re more likely a Pantser - and I welcome you to the Dark Side. I’m your host, Darth Pantser. Prepare for the bits and pieces of your novel to float around in space like the left over pieces of the Death Star after Luke’s iconic Womp Rat - bullseye shot into the thermal exhaust port.



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Mostly TRUE? Hello structure, my old friend, I’ve come to plot with you again. Yup, you’re the plotter type. Get ready to load up a notebook with timelines, outlines, and complete character sketches. All before you ever put down the opening sentence of your novel.


Okay, yes. I may have over dramatized the two so let me turn it down a bit. The phrases I’m using - Pantser / Plotter - came to me from my first experience in the way back times of 2008, with NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. Plotters were described as those who took an organized approach to writing their novels in the form of outlines, timelines, and character sheets on every character in the novel. They had a clear line of sight from first word to “The End”. Doesn’t mean that they didn’t fall into plot holes now and again, it just means their approach to the whole novel writing shtick involves a lot of neatly done pre-planning and work.


And then there’s my people, the Pantsers. We get an idea for a story and we start to write. We follow plot bunnies blindly into the warren (another concept I learned from NaNoWriMo), and typically end the drafting process with a hot mess of paper scraps on which we’ve written bits and pieces of our novels, random files on our hard drives with other bits and pieces of the same novel, and then assorted chunks of said novel still floating around in our heads.


No matter your approach, as long as the draft gets finished, it’s a win and a major step toward getting to the self-published finish line. Here are some suggestions as to how best to cross said finish line depending on your writing style.


Pantsers, I'm not going to tell you to change. We are after all, family. Instead, I'm going to give you some general tips on how to keep your bursts of creativity organized so when its time to pull em all together into a coherent first draft, you're sure to have everything close at hand. Here's what I suggest:

  • Title each segment you complete with details indicating where in the story the segment takes place. That way, when it comes time to organize everything, you can do so with a bit of ease.

  • Try to confine your pantsing to as few places as possible. In other words, make an effort to put all your work into one notebook; one file on your hard drive; one notes AP on your phone.

  • Piggy-backing on that, be sure you regularly transfer these bits and pieces into one central location. I recommend a writing software such as Scrivener. If you don't have something like that, then definitely have some main file on a hard drive in which you can save word docs, audio recordings, etc. Schedule time to transcribe the notes from those random napkins and paper scraps into a word doc then save to the main file. Making sure you do this on a regular basis will go a long way toward making sure none of your hard work goes missing.

Alright, as for you Plotters...there's really not much I need to tell you.

You're already so organized there's little I can share regarding collecting your ideas. So instead, I'm going to offer up a bit of advice about getting the draft finished and that is don't let your desire to have everything in it's place keep you from actually writing. Your notes don't have to be pretty and not every aspect of your story needs to be documented before you begin writing. To that end:

  • Limit yourself to a basic outline that includes working chapter titles and a one or two sentence summary of the chapter.

  • If you must do any character sketches, do them only for your main characters to begin with. Don't get bogged down with doing one for every person, place or, thing BEFORE you begin your draft. Get your protagonist, antagonist, and most important, two - at the most three - supporting characters. Once those are done, then dive into the story writing.

  • Speaking of diving in, all of this prep work - outlining, summarizing, and such should be scheduled in advance of your writing. You want to give yourself plenty of time to get things organized but you don't want this part of the process to last so long you never get down to actually writing the draft. Set a start and finish date so you can get to putting words to page.

Okay, this post is already long enough. I'm going to stop here. If you have any additional questions, please leave them in the comments below. I'll gladly answer each one. And in the meantime, be sure to stop back next week for a writer's Plan With Me where I share a writer's style Plan With Me. You'll learn how to schedule writing into your day to day.


Until next time, sending light & inspiration,

Dana

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