Plotting and Pantsing
Are You a Plotter or a Pantser?
Last month I came across this question for the first time and had no idea what it meant at first. I came across it in an author’s forum which gives a small clue. It asks if you, as an author, plot your book in detail and then write it in linear sequence. Alternatively, do you just make it up as you go along?
It made me think about my approach and, at first, I thought I am a wearer of the pants. On reflection, I thought, “No I do have a plot, most of the time at least.”
Then the answer came to me. The question itself is flawed in my opinion and suggests than you can only choose one as your approach. Rather than an EITHER/OR approach, what I have done most recently gives the best of both worlds, by plotting and outlining a course AND/BOTH flying by the seat of my pants!
Soulwaves : A Future History
With my first novel, I had the main plot line nailed down for many years (15 or so) but not the very ending. The last and 100th chapter only came to me when I was writing chapter 98 or so.
The main plot chronicles the years from 2058 to 2109, when all life on earth is wiped out. That by the way is not a spoiler as it’s not the end or point of the book.
What lifted the main plot line was interspersing and intertwining the linear narrative, based in The Density, with a viewpoint from an other-worldly perspective from what I called The Void. This gives both depth and context in both space and time. The implication is an age-old concept that there is more to heaven and earth that we can possibly know and understand. The second plot line was completely ‘pants’!
By way of exploration, this ambient track takes readers to a place where they can actually experience what it’s like to be in The Void and observe the goings on in The Density.
Return to the Void
Soulwaves : Insertions
So this second book is bound in length by the number 12, with each short story inspired by the numerology of each number from 1 to 12. This then spills over to the 12 ambient tracks and the meditations inspired by each short story.
The overarching plot tells both the pre- and post-history of humankind. In a Cloud Atlas kind of way, some characters appear and re-appear down the timelines – as is the way with things.
Chapters 1 to 6 and chapters 11 and 12 were planned, in outline only, and plotted from the outset. Chapters 7 through to 10 only appeared in meditation on the days I’d planned in my diary when they were coming to meet me. So this book is mostly 2/3rds plotted and 1/3rd ‘panted’.
When it comes to the ambient album and the meditations, the ideas for them only start appearing after I delivered the previous track. Listeners experience how they build on each other and get more complex and audacious at the same time. Like the third book in the series, they are exclusively available to subscribers.
Have a listen to Insertion 1 : The Scroll and see if you can spot which elements I plotted in advance and what might have arrived ‘off the top of my head’.
Soulwaves : The Duadex
With the third book in the anthology, I am 75% in pants mode, running along with a loose 25% framework of a plot. As it is largely based millions of years into the future, on planets with weird and wonderful life forms, too rigid a plot would strangle the wilder fantasies and flights of the imagination.
The book is being serialised, in a Charles Dickens manner, as an audiobook exclusively to subscribers but I am thrilled to share one of the more bizarre chapters publicly here for the first time.
I hope these three different samples of my work show you how you can plot and pant at the same time. This mixed and selective approach, at the very least, works for me.
For most of my non-fiction works, there is a rigid, mind-mapped structure which is populated with scribings done in the meditative state. Some call this channelling.
In my free course, How to Channel Your Book, I explain the difference between passive and active channelling. On reflection, active channelling is the plotting AND pantsing state. The only difference being that you bring an external intelligence and guiding hand into the mix. If you listen to The Duadex, you will hear concepts which have not from me but through me. The latest chapter that I’ve shared here, on where the first 12 Duadexes get delivered, is a good example of that.
Get access to the How to Channel Your Book course here