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I Plotted But Still Pantsed

11

August 23, 2011 by Renee

And this guy is to blame. Okay, not really. But who can think with something like this floating around her head? I mean, seriously.

Today I wrote nothing but this blog post. Why? Partly because I wasted an hour looking at photos of Clive, and partly because I decided that with the fleas and lice, and lord only knows what else, infesting my house this summer, perhaps it’s time I broke down and did what all good housewives do; clean. Specifically, I shampooed the carpets. First, who the hell makes shampooers and where do they live? I’d like to discuss their idea of the height of an average adult and then thump them over the head with their stupidly short machine. Seriously, I’m not THAT tall. Second, I have white carpets. Well, silvery white, but before, they were beige. Like…double-double coffee beige. Wow. That’s a dirty carpet. Tomorrow it’s on to the basement and foyer. I can’t even imagine what color those carpets are. It’s like an adventure that’s not really that fun because I have to work.

But you don’t care about my carpets or my housewifery, do you. No. So let’s get on to discussing writing. Today’s post is about how easily I am drawn off course. Not distracted as in, oh look, Clive’s picture! But distracted as in, I made an outline and I’m completely ignoring it. Not only that, but I’ve gone so far off course, it’s not even the same story. I could still write the one I outlined and have two entirely different novels. What have I done?

Detour #1: Genre

Originally, this was to be a paranormal novel. Not so much romance as humor and kind of creepy. What genre is that? I have no idea. Let’s say paranormal and forget about it. I’ve got about 40K words written and the novel is decidedly paranormal erotica with a dash of funny. The sex is ridiculous and I’m not sure it’s even any good. What? Me too. I have no idea how erotica got mixed up in there, but it’s sure to be a disaster with me writing it. I must stop thinking about Clive while I write.

Detour #2: Characters

In my outline, I had three main characters. Secondary characters are always made on the fly with me, so I expected one or two to pop up. However, the main characters were to be Nate: A god-type thing, Bianca: human changed into a god-type immortal thing, and Michael: sweet, sexy, HUMAN, and the third wheel in the love triangle with Bianca and Nate. By the way, Michael was supposed to win the game in the end. Now, I have Michael as Nate’s nemesis, sort of. Bianca is the Chosen, which is really a fancy name for shit out of luck, and each side of the equation has about six additional characters. Also, the bad guy came out of nowhere and he’s a woman.

Detour #3: Setting

The paranormal element wasn’t supposed to play a big role. Sure, it was obvious, but I didn’t plan to do a lot of world building so beyond their immortality, the story focused on action and a right versus wrong theme. Everything was suppposed to take place on Earth. So, how did it end up on two parallel worlds? Your guess is as good as mine.

Detour #4: The Whole Plot

It’s nothing like what I’d planned. Actually, I don’t even know what’s happening. I’m as much in the dark as the reader at this point. Scary.

Solution: New outline or start over.

That’s all I can do. I’m not a pantser by nature, so this 40K words of unknown story that remains is really bothering me. Actually, it’s keeping me up at night. I have to know how I’m going to end it so I can write toward that ending. Make sense? Sure it does. I also need to have an idea of how much more world building I need to do before I get there. Believe me, I’ve written myself into a few corners before and I really hate doing that.

My question this time is for all the Plotters out there. Have you ever gone so far off your original outline that you completely changed the story? If so, help!

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11 thoughts on “I Plotted But Still Pantsed

  1. I've had tangents change major plot points, but never the whole story. But I do what you do. If the story starts to shift, I just go in and modify the outline.I don't worry about the story following the outline. It's more of a guideline anyway.

  2. Renee Miller says:

    Normally, I'm not worried that it follows the outline because I generally stick pretty close to it without looking back at it. This time, it's kind of taken a life of its own. I messed around a bit last night writing a new outline, but I'm still undecided as to how it ends or what it's building up to. Sigh. Oh well, that can only mean that one day in the near future I'll have an epiphany and that'll put me in a great mood all day.

  3. I don't outline at all. I tried it once and ran off the rails so quickly that it wasn't worth the effort. I'm a plotter with a small corner reserved for pantsing, so it's notes, a rough chronology, and whatever else will keep me on course and still able to wander off on interesting sidepaths.

  4. Renee Miller says:

    @Silvie: Actually, notes, no matter how brief are still a form of outlining. Everyone has their own way. For most of my novels, I've done it similar to your way. Larger, more complex plots I have to get more detailed to make sure I don't make mistakes or have any inconsistencies. Basically I write a brief summary of the overall plot, then for each chapter. Sometimes this entails one sentence "Something important happens here." By the time I reach that chapter, I have a good idea what that "something important is". For this WIP, I had chapters summarized, but that's all useless now. It's way off track. I should clarify, it's not off track in a bad way, just not a direction I've taken before. So…it scares the shit out of me.

  5. the outline is definitely the problem–give it up! characters like to pop up on their own, not be figured out ahead of time…

  6. Renee Miller says:

    I've given it up. It hurt, but I did. I must confess though, I couldn't do it until I wrote a new outline. I swear it's the only organized part of my life. The rest is utter chaos.

  7. I wish I could do an outline but it's impossible–instead I leave little bits of paper lying around with a sentence or two from one character or another…or an idea I want to follow…always get these epiphanies when in the bath, out on a walk or lying in bed–haven't done a bit of writing in many days but I think Mercury's in retrograde, isn't it?

  8. Mike Keyton says:

    Outlines, like rules, are meant to be broken. As long as the concept and the writing is fluid/malleable you have something to shape. It's when the writing dries you have to worry. At the moment I'm in the middle of an early colonial paranormal. The outline consists of character goals, the beginning, some key landmarks in the middle and a fairly clear end. The big thing missing are the tiny details of research other than what I already know. But that's less important than the story. Detail and texture can be added in afterwards. So go with your gut, Renee (I'm sure its a dainty and perfectly formed little gut) and keep on writing. The subconscious occasionally likes to shrug off the girdle of a preconceived plot.

  9. Renee Miller says:

    "I'm sure its a dainty and perfectly formed little gut" You always know how to flatter a girl, Mike. I'm going with it. I've written a new outline just to get things straight in my head, but I'm kind of letting the pantsing thing run its course. Mostly because it's turned out pretty well. I did notice some inconsistencies, which come along with pantsing, but nothing that can't be easily fixed. I think the complete departure from genre has me most unsettled. But then, it's moved to a genre I hadn't considered writable for me. That doesn't mean I can't do it, I'm just not as confident with it.

  10. Mrs. Johnson says:

    I'm a panster so I'm not particularly worried on your behalf. Things have a way of working out. I say: go with it! That's where the energy is. However, I understand how switching from plotter to panster is unsettling. I tried once to switch from panster to plotter & seriously just about drove myself mad trying to nail it all down. I ended up having to go back to my 'intuitive' ways. So perhaps the experience of being outside your usual plotter mode will be so uncomfortable you won't want to continue…but I say give it a try!Julie J. busywriting.net

  11. Renee Miller says:

    Although it makes me antsy, I'm going with it and I'm actually quite pleased with the results. It's more my "voice" than some of my other work, which I find I really do like. It's a good experience even if it turns out to be a pile of crap. You see, I've learned to release my strangle-hold on that outline. It's a good thing.

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Renee

Renee

I like to write stuff. Sometimes it's funny. I've published some novels and short fiction. I also battle an addiction to cake and potato chips, and I sometimes have inappropriate fantasies involving Kevin Spacey.

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