30 June 2020

Plantser on the Spectrum

I don't typically write by plotting through every detail, adhering to a strict outline. Yet, I don't write quite by the seat of my pants, having no idea where each next word might lead.
So I suppose, for any given piece of prose or poetry, I fall somewhere in the middle between a "Plotter" and a "Pantser."

I mull over ideas for a while before I ever decide to pursue them on the page. Therefore, I generally have a fair idea of what I seek to write. I begin at the beginning, and, all the way through, I possess a  sense of the end. While I do not outline every plot point nor every characteristic of every character, I maintain firm notions of what shall happen and how characters ought to behave. And although I pretty well know where the story is going, I definitely enjoy feeling the flow of the words and discovering which ways they might direct the piece.

That's basically how always I've written. But a piece I just recently finished sprang a fantastic surprise on me, reawakening a personal sense of wonder to writing.

I was approaching the end of the first draft. It was a piece I had kicked around for a while before beginning. Plus, I worked on it only seasonally, just a few weeks every spring. So, all told, I had been working on this short story over a span of about of ten years. Plenty of chance to figure it all out, right?
I knew what I wanted to happen. I knew how the main character would react. But, having a general, if not a vague, idea the whole way for the finish, it was not until the final paragraph, not until the very last sentences, that I knew precisely how the story would end.
And as my concluding thoughts took shape--indeed, as they took hold--and as the ink flowed for those final few words, I remembered why I write in the first place. The pure marvel of inspiration. The sheer delight in illumination. The fantastic joy of finding the perfect word. The boundless wonder of expressing an idea and of sharing it with others.

Every piece of writing possesses those moments, to some degree. But this was the first story I had ever written where I did not know the true ending until the very moment I wrote it. 

I've had instances in writing where the words write themselves. It's absolutely terrific when that happens. But it was an altogether singular experience to be writing for so long toward an ultimate objective, lost between guiding the words and letting the words guide me, and then to have the entire spectrum of control and surrender--of plotting and pantsing--converge into a singular revelation connecting illumination and inspiration.

 Really does help remind me why I love writing.

Spectrum Tunnel
Spectrum Tunnel - Piotr Siedlecki - CC0 Public Domain

For thorough analyses of what "Plotter" versus "Pantser" is all about, visit these links:




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