I Tried So Hard To Be A Plotter. Turns Out, I Am A Pantser
A Writing Lesson I Learnt Over The Past Year
Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
- El Doctorow
When I was learning about the craft of writing, very advice told me I had to have an outline.
The benefit of having an outline, they said, was to know where your story is going. To know all the critical plot points and turning events. To know who my characters were and what their intentions were.
To a novice writer like me, this advice made complete sense.
Knowing where I and my story was heading seemed like a great idea and the obvious choice.
I didn't foresee the four years of creative torture ahead of me.
No matter how much I tried, I could never write an outline for my novel idea. Every time I tried, a voice inside me would ask this one question - How the hell am I supposed to know what happens next?
Finally, after being fed up with trying to plot my story for four years, I thought, let's just go with the flow.
It didn't even take me two years to finally fall back in love with writing.
Turns out I am a pantser.
I was trying so hard to be someone I wasn't, that when I let myself be the kind of writer I am, it happened effortlessly.
When you are reading a book, you don't know what will happen on the next page. It could be a shocking or sad, or happy incident. All we know, as readers, is that it's a surprise. Why would you bother reading the book if you knew what was happening next?
Similarly, as a writer, I believe it's okay not to know every beat of the scene or chapter you are writing. Letting the story surprise you is much more entertaining and necessary than knowing what's next.
My "having-everything-in-control" side of the brain doesn't like not knowing what I am writing next.
But I know that my writing thrives in the uncertain and unknown. So often, I have surprised myself with my writing, making me wonder - This came out of my head?
And this is such a satisfying question to ask your writer self.
Clarity comes from engagement, not thought.
- Marie Forleo