Plotting vs Pantsing

There comes a point in every writer’s career, very early on, when they have to make a fundamental decision. Do I plot my novel out or do I write by the seat of my pants?

In writer’s lingo, this is known as plotting vs pantsing. There is a a quote associated to George R.R. Martin on the topic.

here are some writers who are architects, and they plan everything, they blueprint everything, and they know before the drive the first nail into the first board what the house is going to look like and where all the closets are going to be, where the plumbing is going to run, and everything is figured out on the blueprints before they actually begin any work whatsoever. And then there are gardeners who dig a little hole and drop a seed in and water it with their blood and see what comes up, and sort of shape it. They sort of know what seed they’ve planted — whether it’s an oak or an elm, or a horror story or a science fiction story, but they don’t how big it’s going to be, or what shape it’s going to take.

People will tell you that there is no correct answer to this question. Whatever feels right to you.

But those people lie. Martin has written five books of The Song of Fire and Ice between 2004 and 20011. Five books in seven years. Four years later, we are still working on book six. Contrast that to Sean Platt who has written over five million words since Martin published A Game of Thrones.

I’ve written roughly 75,000 words this year. That is, of course, across Once Upon a Saturn MoonThe Fall of Saar, and The Book of Fawla. And I wrote less than 3500 words in the middle four months of the year. July and August had zero writing.

Each of the three stories I wrote this year were outlined. After my writing hiatus, I discovered beats. Beats can be described as very detailed outlines. If the outline I started with for Once Upon a Saturn Moon was a 1000 foot view, then beats would be a 100 foot or even a 10 foot view. Nearly 40,000 words of the 75,000 words written this year have been in the past three months. 20,000 words were this month, and my goal is another 8000.

Next year, I plan on writing four novels, a short story, and four more episodes of The Book of Fawla. I can’t do that by pantsing.  If you want to get books out fast, as is a necessity in this age of indie publishing, you need to learn the art of getting books out faster than your readers have a chance to forget you.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

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