GUEST POST: In Defense of Pantsing by Dana Mele
Hi guys! Happy Friday! I have a super fun guest post for you today! One of the most frequent questions I get asked is "are you a plotter or a pantser?" Even though I'm a plotter myself, I've always been super intrigued by the idea of "writing by the seat of your pants." Dana Mele, a fellow Electric 18, is here to tell us why she's pantser. Dana's debut, People Like Us, is set to release in February.
Thanks for joining us, Dana! Take it away! :)
In Defense of Pantsing by Dana Mele
I should amend that title. I'm not a pure pantser. A pure pantser, by definition, opens a blank document and writes with no outline, no scene skeletons, no bulletin board plastered with numbered index cards connected by maze-like zigzags of yarns.
No one probably does that last one.
But you might guess that I find planning intimidating.
I used to outline meticulously, and what happened was, I got bogged down in details. I'd have this perfectly plotted story but when it came time to write it, my dialogue was flat, my prose was halting, and there was zero suspense. I was just writing to fill out plot points.
Scene one. Mary's sixteenth birthday, learns about the prophecy, sister's kidnapping, ghost of a hint about how to stop time and kill rock creatures, convo with love interest.
I would map the entire story out like this, a joyless synopsis that, as it grew more and more specific, would often stretch out to 20-30,000 words. By the time I started actually writing, it was almost like playing mad libs. There was no room for tension building or suspense because I knew everything. It was harder to build atmosphere and paint pictures of my characters and settings because I'd pretty much reduced them all to placeholders that served the plot, and I simply couldn't envision them anymore. They had become words on a page to me after spending so long focusing on story structure without allowing myself the freedom to watch it unfold on the page.
So I don't do it anymore.
When I was much younger, I went to a really cool event where J.K. Rowling, John Irving, and Stephen King all read excerpts from their books and talked a little about writing. For some reason, I only remember what Stephen King said. He talked about how when he wrote, it was like picking up a thread that lead into a mouse hole--this was quite a while ago and I really hope I don't get it wrong—and continuing to tug at the thread little by little to see where the story led.
I love that description.
But I'm also not quite that confident.
Which is why I say I'm not a pure pantser.
I always know my beginning and my ending. I know what's in the mouse hole. And I know some of the knots in the thread. The big ones. But I generally don't know how I'm going to get from the beginning to the end.
The way I like to describe it is like a road trip. I know I'm driving from New York to California. I know I'm leaving from my house, and I plan to end up in L.A. I plan to stop in Chicago, Boulder, and Moab. But as I drive, I don't know what I'm going to encounter. I may find out about a cool festival or concert and decide to change my route. And because of something I encounter on the way, I might even decide to end my trip in San Francisco instead of L.A. So spending too much time planning that trip might be a waste. And it takes some of the fun out of road tripping.
There's a lot to be said for planning. Like I said, I do have a rough idea of what I'm going to write. My personal method is to write my spark of an idea first as a one-line elevator pitch, then in a query-style couple of paragraphs, just to make sure my premise is solid, and then, I generally take a deep breath and hit the road, to speak.
Some people hate drafting, but I love it. This is the road trip part of the journey.
It's a ton of work, but it's also an opportunity to explore. Editing is about refining, cutting down. This is the time you get to expand, go wild, travel the landscape of your imagination with total unfettered freedom.
How do you say no to that?
Dana Mele is a Pushcart-nominated writer and a work at home mother. A graduate of Wellesley College, she is a former actor, lawyer, musician, and briefly, associate producer. She prefers tea to coffee, snow to sand, and stars to sunshine, and she lives in the Catskills with her husband and toddler. Her YA debut PEOPLE LIKE US, a psychological thriller described as GONE GIRL meets PRETTY LITTLE LIARS will be released by Putnam/Penguin Random House in February 2018.
Add People Like Us on GOODREADS.
A sharp psychological thriller that's just right for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why and Pretty Little Liars --this story will seduce, mislead, and finally, betray you. Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she's reinvented herself entirely. Now she's a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl's body is found in the lake, Kay's carefully constructed life begins to topple. The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay's finally backed into a corner, she'll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make...not something that happened.
Thank you so much, Dana! Now how about you? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Why?
Hope you guys have an awesome weekend! :)