First, let me start by saying I really hate the terms "Plotters" and "Pantsers." Especially the latter. I was very relieved to hear a respected and successful author refer instead to "Outliners" and "Discovery Writers." Of course one podcast later she talking about "pantsing," so I guess I'll just take my victories where I can.
Getting on to the point, I haven't quite decided which one I am. Certainly for The Paladin I was an Outliner. I used pads upon pads of sticky notes slapped on poster board to visualize where everything took place. I used a calendar to plot out the time line so I could make sure there was a proper number of days between certain events. In fact, for most stories I at least tend to take a walk or just lie out in the living room in the middle of the night, contemplating the story points.
But for some short stories, like the ones I'm concocting for you guys at this very moment, I'm doing a little discovery writing. I know more or less what I want, but I'm letting logic and the characters dictate where things go from here. In my most recent session this involved the necessary creation of two named characters to interact with the protagonist. I had no idea they'd exist when I started, but the plot demanded it. I'm sure if I outlined they might be fleshed out a bit better, but for now, they're serving their purpose.
So which do I recommend? Well, I suppose that depends on your goals for the story. These short stories I'm working on aren't getting published anywhere. They'll go up on my site and maybe on WattPad or something. They're for fun. Gotta keep sharp, you know? So there's no reason not to discovery write, to toss characters out and see where they lead you.
My next novel? And the one after that? And the one after that one? No. They're already half plotted. I haven't gone to the trouble of making up sticky notes and poster board outlines yet, but that will come. Those stories are far more complex and have a lot more of my soul in them. They will be significant sinks of my time and I don't want to bumble through something that complex.
I suppose it's like having a game plan. If you're just having a friendly pickup game at the park, sure... just jump in and have fun. But if you're in the playoffs, you better have some strategy if you want to go home happy that day. And that's how I write. The Paladin, while fun and certainly a work of joy and passion, is too important to go at without a plan. Likewise, the rest of the series that connects to it cannot move forward on a whim. But a quickie story about a man sharing his body with the spirit of a war hero? Sure. Let's see what happens.
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Keep your eyes open for my debut novel, The Paladin.