Friday, June 24, 2011

The Most Interesting Thing I Learned This Week--I'm a Planter

This past Monday, due to a terrible bout of vertigo, I didn't get to go for my morning hike which not only saddened me, but threw off my perfect writing routine. Why? This week I've come to the realization that I'm not really a pantser, I'm a planter.

A planter is a person who plants seeds, right? And I certainly do that. But this blog is about writing, not gardening. So what am I talking about?

Have you ever been asked, "Are you a plotter or a pantser?" I've always answered, "Pantser." But this week I learned that's not really true. I do not write by the seat of my pants. Not well anyway. Nor am I able to sit down and plan out an entire novel in outline form. I'm neither a pantser nor a plotter. I'm somewhere in between. A planter.

As you may  know, I'm in the throes of drafting a YA historical set in Occupied Paris. After a failed first attempt, I realized I can't write this novel by the seat of my pants. So this past month I've spent every Monday morning out in the woods, planning the plot points for the week ahead. I create a mental map of my story and visualize the upcoming scenes, talk through the dialogue, hear the voices and speak them out loud. Like seeds, the scenes are planted in my brain and when I sit down to write them, they've had time to germinate. The writing flows.

This week I didn't get my scene planting walk in and as a result, the writing has been like planting in rocky, weedy soil.

What about you? What's your process?


  1. Ooooh. Yes. I do a very similar thing. Sometimes it's like I'm James Lipton interviewing my own mind: "The MC has a scar on his lower lip. Tell me more about that." Then I let my brain answer the question however it wants. I plant a question, it sprouts an answer.

    Sorry to hear about the vertigo. I am a sufferer of motion sickness so bad I must always drive, never ride as a passenger in a car or else -- GACK! So I know that icky, dizzy feeling well. Feel better!

  2. Sorry that you didn't get to go hiking. My eldest suffers from motion sickness and vertigo. Hope you feel better!

    I have started to be a planter too. Seems that I can write about a third of the book then have to stop and think. Then outline a bit, not too much because my characters will just say, HEY You don't know what I'm going through and then pretty much ignore me XD

    Your book has piqued my interest. I am married to a French guy, and I read a lot of books on the Occupation.

  3. I'm with you, Angelina! I wrote my first novel as a pantser, but it was a contemporary piece that evolved more organically. The second was my first historical bid, so I outlined it (loosely) and continued to tweak the outline as I went. Now #3 is nearing the climax and I had to stop and really re-assess where my outline was leading me. Tweaking time!

    I now lay out my characters more carefully, interview them, describe their relationships with the other characters and explore their flaws. Yep, I'd have to say I am now a planter. I even draw maps!

    That doesn't mean my characters don't like to mess with me and try to persuade me to make different choices. They always have their reasons...

  4. I'm a pantser, but I do plan ahead in my head. I like where the characters take me themselves. Halfway through a book, I tend to sit down and roughly plan the resolution.

  5. I do both myself. Like Ghost Girl, I did write my first novel entirely by the seat of my pants, but the end result was less than ideal. Planning has helped a lot. Now I use a method that is more like guided wandering. I start out with some ideas, fairly well thought out, but give myself the freedom to abandon them if they end up cramping my style.

  6. Okay, so I'm feeling quite supported in my planter methodology. Thanks all of you for chiming in. I love Mary's expression "guided wandering". Happy writing, all!


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