Cephus' Corner

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Planning vs. Seat of the Pants - Cephus' Corner

Planning vs. Seat of the Pants

July 20th, 2014

mood-writingI’ve always been a writer who planned everything meticulously.  I can’t stand not knowing where my story is going in great detail and I suspect this is mostly because I tend to include tons of tightly intertwined plot threads that I have to make sure get tied up by the end.  However, there are a lot of writers who say they just write by the seat of their pants, they sit down without a plan and just write and see where it leads them.

So I thought I’d try it.  In my current Joe Orokamono story, I knew how I wanted the first chapter, I knew the vague outline of the story I wanted to tell, but I didn’t know any of the specifics.  I just sat down, knowing the characters very well, knowing the setting very well, knowing the kinds of situations the characters are likely to get into very well, and let things flow.

Okay, they didn’t really flow, this was really an exercise in frustration because I just don’t work this way.

Once I had written the first 6 chapters, approximately 120 pages or so, I went back and re-read what I had written and you know what?  I hated it.  What’s worse, in re-reading it, I realized that I missed a lot of things that, had I done it my usual way, I would have caught.  Now I’m left with the realization that I need to totally re-write chapter 6 and probably ought to throw out chapter 5 and start over as well.  The rest all need revision to add elements that really need to be there, to help along the sub-plots, resolve mysteries and drop clues.

Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with seat-of-the-pants writing, some people swear by it and that’s fine.  I’m not one of those people.  I am a meticulous planner, I start off by writing down a complete and detailed outline of the story, chapter by chapter, character by character, delineating what happens in the narrative.  I want to know where the plot goes in each and every chapter, I want to know what all of my characters are doing and how what they are doing affects and impacts other characters. I may have half-a-dozen sub-plots running at the same time, all of which come together in the end to directly affect the climax of the story.  That’s not something you can just write and hope that it all works out in the end.  I can’t just cross my fingers and assume that I’ll end up with a good story.  It’s just not me.

I do understand the difference between planners and pantsers, the planner essentially does an initial conceptual pass before writing a first draft, whereas a pantser does the initial conceptual pass while writing the first draft.  I just find it easier to do it my way than the pantser way.  After all, I can define a story in a couple of days and then start to write my rough draft, whereas a pantser might take weeks or even months to write the rough draft, finding out at the end that the story doesn’t even make any sense.  It just seems more efficient to me to start from a plan, don’t waste those weeks or months on a bad first draft, and be able to complete a product faster and better, especially given how little free time I have to write to begin with.

Therefore, it’s back to the drawing board and that’s something I really, really hate to do. I’m fine with editing, I’m fine with cleaning up prose and revising for readability. What I hate is having to do something over from scratch because most of the time, I can’t get what I’ve already written out of my head and I just want to put it down on “paper” again, no matter how much I know it sucks.  The idea of “I’ve been here before, here’s what I should do” is strong, no matter how much I fight it.  Before I do that though, I have to work through the entire story in my head and commit it to “paper” so I don’t make these mistakes again.  I have most of the story elements down in my head, there are a few things I need to work out, but I figure within a week, maybe two, I’ll be back to writing.  Then it’s just finding the time to sit at a keyboard and pound for a while, but that’s another story.

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Cephus' Corner

A Place to Share my Geeky Side With the World. Comics, movies, TV, collecting, you name it, I indulge in it.