One leg in and one leg out

26 Oct

I believe that every writer has their own pattern or set of ‘writing rules’ that they follow as they create.

Some are Plotters.  In the beginning process this type of writer will plot detailed outlines.  They’ll make charts with sticky notes, a dry erase board or recipe cards they can rearrange as they write and their story characters, actions or motivations change.  Very detailed, they not only know their characters inside and out, they know each scene and have it planned to the most minor detail.

Others just sit down and write.  These are the Pantsters.  They have a basic concept, but prefer to have the story come to them as they write.  The story takes the lead and they follow with the click of their keyboard.  They write and write and write without stopping, getting as many words on paper as possible.  Then, when they feel the story is complete, they go back over it and tweak it.  Deepen the POV, fill in description and scene, maybe weave in another subplot.  Basically fill in the blanks and give it a fine tune until it sparkles and shines.

Still others will write out of order.  I’ve never heard of a label attached to this style of writing, but I call it the Hairpuller (lol…that’s just because it frustrates me).  First they might work on chapter one to introduce the main characters and get a better feel for them.  Then they might move to chapter five for a huge action scene.  From there they jump ahead further to the last chapter to finish the story and see how it works before moving back to fill in the blanks with chapter two.  Aaahh…you must write linear…lol (at least I must).

There are probably more styles out there, but these are the main ones I hear other writers talk about.   On occasion I like to shake things up on myself and see if I’m missing something.  If I try another way of getting my story written, will it improve my writing, keep my motivation high or help me work faster.

Nope… :).  I have tried these methods and they aren’t for me.  But hats off to the writers that can follow them.  That’s the wonderful thing about writing, you can do it your own way. 🙂

For me, the authors that write out of order amaze me.  I just can’t wrap my mind around that one.  Lol.  I must have order and direction.  I have to follow from the beginning, starting with point A and ending with point Z.

Then comes the Pantster.  To write without having an idea where your story is going…an incredible concept I can’t fathom.  I have tried to just sit in front of my laptop and start with one idea and go.  And I can actually do it for awhile, but then I notice I start writing scenes or allowing my characters to have dialogue that really doesn’t advance the story.  Or worse yet, I’ll write my characters into a corner and will have to backtrack to get them out and moving in another direction and I end up with a lot of detail I really don’t want or need.

But I’m also not a total Plotter.  I think that would take to much organization on my part…lol…and I’d feel like I was wasting to much time mapping everything out when I should be writing.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I have one leg in and one leg out of my pants!  And I definitely keep my hands away from my hair, so hairpulling is totally out :).

If you’re wondering what I mean by having one leg in and one leg out, let me clarify.

Basically I plot my stories by making a GMC (goal, motivation and conflict) chart for each character.  I know some authors will even do this scene by scene, but I don’t go that deep in the plotting process.  Then I write a small bio for each main character and if I have a villain they also get the GMC and bio too.  From there I basically write a quickie outline with the major plot points, which also acts as my rough draft for a synopsis.  My chart/outline doesn’t include the fluff stuff of the story, but the big points that move the story along.  I find if I go into to much detail, I feel frustrated when my story veers in another direction…and I have to say my stories always veer in another direction.  I like that I know where my story is going on the major points, but on the other hand I like the fact that something about a character or a scene can pop up and change a detail, adding a new level and depth to a character I hadn’t considered.  Thus making my story deeper and more real.  (I hope).

This works for me because it keeps me excited about the story.  I don’t know every minor detail and I’ll still have some surprises thrown at me, but it also keeps me on track because I know just enough to have direction.

So I am technically a pantster with one leg out for plotting.  LOL…does that make sense?

It’s funny how being a pantster or a plotter really fits into everyone’s world, even non-writers.

Some of us like to have lists and schedules and know what we are doing every minute of everyday.  Then others fly by the seat of their pants.  Jump from bed each morning and go with the flow.  Still others (like me), have a general idea, certain things planned and plotted, but let other things come and go as they will.

But the interesting thing here is that I believe someone that writes and is a plotter in their writing could very well be a pantster in every other aspect of their lives.  Hmm…makes you think doesn’t it?

What about you, writer or not, are you a plotter, pantster or do you hop around when you are putting your pants on with one leg in and one leg out?


Posted by on October 26, 2011 in Day to Day Life, On Writing


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

42 responses to “One leg in and one leg out

  1. Neecy

    October 26, 2011 at 2:36 am

    Both- I start out being a plotter–oh the details and keeping the story line straight. I even know where I want to go… and then I have what I like to call an “Ah-ha.” moment “What was I thinking?” and stuff changes -so I become a pantster. LOL
    Good post,

    • ChristineWarner

      October 26, 2011 at 3:29 am

      lol…so you think you have your act together with plotting but find out at the last minute you’re just like me. One leg in and one leg out. Love it!
      Thanks for dropping by!

  2. Valerie

    October 26, 2011 at 2:37 am

    Yep, that’s me too…One leg in and one leg out. I just didn’t know there might be others like me, lol. I love the time spent plotting, but after a while I’m itching to just ‘write already’! My muse will begin to sulk if I take too long, so I plunge in.

    I’ve taken a couple of Holly Lisle courses and that’s helped me a lot with staying with my plot.

    But, it’s good to know I’m in good company with my style of writing!

    • ChristineWarner

      October 26, 2011 at 3:31 am

      YAY…I love it when I meet someone that plots/pantsters like me. I’ve never heard of Holly Lisle, I’ll have to check out her courses! Thanks for dropping by and for the tip 🙂

  3. mirriamsmyth

    October 26, 2011 at 3:05 am

    I’m a total pantster when I write – the characters start talking or acting and I type/write it out for them. I’ve tried plotting a story, tried the GMC thing, and I got super frustrated. I felt like my characters were boxes with legs and arms – they moved and acted but with limitations.

    Outside of writing though… I’m a total plotter. I make lists, plan out my weekend by Wednesday, get pissy when I don’t complete my lists. Weekdays aren’t so thoroughly planned out, but my weekends always are. I have 48 hours to get “X” amount of things done and they get done come hell or high water, lol.

    • Sharon Cullen

      October 26, 2011 at 3:33 am

      That’s so funny, Mirriam, because I’m the same way. Total panster as a writer, total plotter in my life. But I plan my week out ahead of time. I know exactly when my writing time is, etc etc. And I get very aggravated if the “plot” changes.

      • mirriamsmyth

        October 26, 2011 at 4:43 am

        I wish I could plan my week out ahead of time, but there aren’t enough hours in a day for me to royally screw up a day, lol. A long commute in the mornings and evenings takes up most of my day. Add in work and there isn’t much left. 🙂

    • ChristineWarner

      October 26, 2011 at 3:36 am

      I love it Mirriam! Interesting that you’re a pantster writer and a plotter in your everyday life! Funny how we all have our own method of writing that gets the job done.
      Thanks for coming by!

      • mirriamsmyth

        October 26, 2011 at 4:40 am

        Oh, I’m also a hairpuller. I forgot to put that in there. I’m working on a paranormal WIP that’s, literally, in pieces. I’ve got the first chapter halfway done, but I’ve got three chapters closer to the end completely done. And I started two shorts and they’re both in shambles, lol. I’ll connect the dots eventually and make them a complete stories. My thought process, um, should come with a bio-hazard sign or something.

  4. Sharon Cullen

    October 26, 2011 at 3:31 am

    I’m a panster. I write and the story reveals itself to me as I go. I do write myself into corners but not nearly as much as I used to. I think I’ve learned along the way how to avoid that.

    When I do start a book, though, I know my characters inside and out because they’ve lived in my head a long, long time before I ever put them on paper. I like that because I like stories that are more character driven than plot driven. I think that’s why I write myself into a corner less and less.

    I’ve tried plotting. B-O-R-I-N-G. For me at least. For some people it works and kudos to them. I envy them when I’m stuck and don’t know where to take the plot.

    I’m definitely not a hairpuller. I can’t write out of order, probably because I have no idea where the story is taking me.

    Whatever works is the way you should go. Pants on, pants off, pants half on–it all works out in the end.

    • ChristineWarner

      October 26, 2011 at 3:38 am

      Well said Sharon! I love the wide array opinions I reading. And though I do partially plot, I do think I’d become bored as well if I plotted out to much…there has to be an element of surprise I think 🙂
      Thanks for sharing!!

  5. jerridrennen

    October 26, 2011 at 3:32 am

    I’m a panster all the way. Once I tried plotting out a book and well, it didn’t work–never finished it. I just pull two characters out of my head, give them a stage and watch the story unfold.

    • ChristineWarner

      October 26, 2011 at 3:39 am

      I envy that…wish I could write more that way, but I have to do my little GMC chart for each character. But I do like along they way when one of them reveals a hidden secret and I get to include it…a characteristic and flaw and tidbit from their past I had no clue about. That’s about as pantster as I get…lol
      Thanks for coming by Jerri 🙂

  6. Tabitha

    October 26, 2011 at 3:55 am

    Well I have one leg in and one out. I do plan from first chapter to the last but I don’t do your typical out line. Every chapter has about ten key things that need to be in that chapter. Then I fly by the seat of my pants when writing. If the story changes I rework my outline. It keeps me on track. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to do this it all comes down to what works for you.

    • ChristineWarner

      October 26, 2011 at 4:04 am

      I couldn’t agree more Tabitha…whatever works for each individual and gets the story completed is the right way.
      Sounds like you and I write about the same.
      Thanks for commenting!

  7. D'Ann Linscott-Dunham

    October 26, 2011 at 4:12 am

    I’m a complete pantser. I have an idea, write it and I’m off!

    The new ms stirring around in my head is the 1st one ever that I’ve plotted a little, and I’m actually trying to fight that, becasue if I know the whole story, it’ll bore me and I won’t finish it.

    • ChristineWarner

      October 26, 2011 at 4:15 am

      That’s why I can only partially plot…I like that when I’m writing I make a discovery about my characters or story…keeps the excitement of writing…but I have to plot a teeny bit. lol
      I wish I could completely pantster like you D’Ann…but I’d be in a constant state of rewrite if I did. 🙂
      Thanks for coming by 🙂

  8. Georgie Lee

    October 26, 2011 at 4:21 am

    I kepe trying to plot but I just can’t do it. I’m a pantster with plotter envy.

    • ChristineWarner

      October 26, 2011 at 4:28 am

      You have to write the best way that works for you. I envy the total pantster…but I’m going to embrace my one leg in and one leg out method of writing…and maybe later shake things up a bit again and see if I’m up for something new (but somehow I doubt it)… 🙂
      Thanks for commenting!

    • mirriamsmyth

      October 26, 2011 at 4:41 am

      LOL I like that: “I’m a pantster with plotter envy.”

      I think the writer in me envies the non-writer in me – the one that plans everything in life but stories.

  9. Tory Michaels (@ToryMichaels)

    October 26, 2011 at 4:58 am

    Like many others, I’m definitely a pantser with only the tiniest bit of plotter mixed in. I always have a main character (usually the heroine) in mind when I sit down, and with my current series, a vague idea what ending I need (a HEA and a furthering of the series plot).

    I’m about to start working on a futuristic series though and I need to do a lot of thinking/mapping out ahead of time because I need to develop what Earth looks like a hundred years from now after certain events take place. And I do know (approximately) what needs to happen by the end in each of the 4 books, with a vague idea who the characters are. This should be a learning experience, to be certain.

    • ChristineWarner

      October 26, 2011 at 5:07 am

      oh oh Tory, me thinks I see some plotting in your future! lol

      Glad you stopped in, thanks for commenting!

  10. Kristina Knight

    October 26, 2011 at 5:13 am

    I’m like you – one leg in, one out. I usually have a flash of an idea or scene and write that down. From there I’ll create a loose outline and then pants it out – sometimes the outline is waaaaay different than the finished product!

    • ChristineWarner

      October 26, 2011 at 5:40 am

      lol..yep, you sound like me. It’s incredible sometimes when I finish my story and look at my original outline…the only things matching might be the character names.
      Thanks for coming by Kristi!

  11. Mimi Barbour

    October 26, 2011 at 5:13 am

    It’s amazing how many people work so differently and still manage to come up with an identical product – a book! I like to have my characters firmly set in my mind and then I just sit down and write their story. Some of the plots have been thought up previously so I work towards getting to them, but it’s a constant shock when things just seem to fall into place as the words flow.
    Love when that happens.

    Great blog!

    • ChristineWarner

      October 26, 2011 at 5:41 am

      Thanks Mimi…glad you stopped in. I agree with you, love hearing how everyone gets the job done. 🙂

  12. Jennifer Lowery~Author

    October 26, 2011 at 5:47 am

    Great post, Christine! I write by the seat of my pants all the way!! The more I plan, the more I don’t want to write the story. Makes first drafts tough, but I love the revisions.

    • ChristineWarner

      October 26, 2011 at 5:53 am

      YAY, another revision lover! We’re rare I think.

      Glad you came by Jennifer, although I can’t believe you are a pantster…I’d have guessed you were a one leg in and one leg out writer. 🙂

  13. Calisa Rhose

    October 26, 2011 at 5:49 am

    Great imagery here Christine. I think I’m a panster with my pants only half way up! I think of an idea, character, maybe a title and run with it. Somewhere along the way I may take a few minutes to solidify the character’s GMC to shore up that saggy middle, but for the most part I get a thrill out of letting the characters lead me blindfolded through to the end.

    • ChristineWarner

      October 26, 2011 at 5:56 am

      LOL…so are you telling me that you have one leg in and one leg out, but you’re bent over struggling to pull your pants up from your knees?

      Thanks for dropping in Calisa 🙂

  14. Brenda

    October 26, 2011 at 6:14 am

    I’m a plotnser. I do both. So I’m like you, one leg in and one leg out.

  15. Sheri Fredricks

    October 26, 2011 at 6:25 am

    Hi Christine ~ I used to be a pantser, until I became a hairpuller. After reading Save The Cat (Blake Snyder), I turned into a plotter who leaves room for flexability. Now I guess I’m a hairpulling plotter…

    • ChristineWarner

      October 26, 2011 at 7:31 am

      lol….you make me laugh Sheri 🙂

      I still have to read that book, Save the Cat….I know it’ll be a good one.

      Thanks for posting 🙂

  16. Mac Crowne

    October 26, 2011 at 6:48 am

    Thank God I’m not a hair puller. I’ve been bald, and didn’t like it. And neither am I a plotter. I am basically a pantser with one foot in the butt area while I create a rough outline, then jump in with both feet. I’ve tried, but can’t write any other way. Glad to see I’m not alone in my insanity.

    • ChristineWarner

      October 26, 2011 at 7:35 am

      Thanks for stopping in! It’s funny how you form a certain pattern of writing and no other way will work. I’ve tried a few and always go back to my one leg in and one leg out. 🙂

  17. Loralee Lillibridge

    October 26, 2011 at 7:50 am

    Great post, Christine! Your writing style is a lot like mine. Ya’ gotta love those surprises along the way. I call myself a “plantster., but I like your “leg out” description much better.

    • ChristineWarner

      October 26, 2011 at 2:45 pm

      Hi Loralee! Glad you like my lingo and so happy you stopped in today and commented 🙂

  18. David Anderson

    October 26, 2011 at 9:15 am

    I agree with Sharon Cullen, completely.

    • ChristineWarner

      October 26, 2011 at 2:46 pm

      Hi David, thank you for stopping in and commenting! Don’t you love the variation of opinions on getting the story done?

  19. Cheryl Yeko

    October 26, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    Hey, Christine. I’m a full blown panster. Although I am playing around with that neat little plotter chart you gave me.

    We’ll see.


    • ChristineWarner

      October 27, 2011 at 12:56 am

      Hi Cheryl…hope the chart helps. I don’t fill it in completely but use what I need for whatever story I’m working on. Glad to know you’re giving it a try! Thanks for coming by 🙂


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