“Are you a pantser or a planner?”
This is the question I get asked the most by fellow writers. I used to identify myself 100% as a pantser – mostly because my modus operandi was to chase every plot my Muse flushed up, without taking a second to consider things any deeper than the surface of the idea. But as time has gone on, I’ve realized I’m actually neither a panster, nor a plotter.
I am a journeyer.
Whether your tendency is to plan a story to the last detail before you put a single word to paper, or if you’d rather go into it with a loose structure and nothing else, you are embarking on a journey at the start of every story. Each manuscript is (or should be!) its own adventure. But I would venture to say that like the very journey your characters will undergo, you will also meet unexpected twists along the way.
You probably know exactly what I’m talking about: a character who pops onto the scene and changes everything. An unexpected romance. A new plot point cropping up that suddenly causes your entire perspective on your WIP to shift. An outline detail that suddenly reveals its holes once you have it down on paper.
Stories are strange, fluid things. In my own personal experience, no matter how detailed my outline is, something unexpectedly jolts it out of joint. Case in point: I am currently drafting Book 4 of my current WIP. And while I thought I had the first twelve chapters mapped out, I have already added two new chapters since starting it, because two unexpected POV changes demanded I break things way differently from how I first planned.
Such is the journey.
This week’s encouragement: learn to embrace and trust in the journey. Even if you’re a detailed outliner, your story might surprise you. And that’s okay! Try to roll with it. See what happens. You can always edit later. But a good story is organic, and it may grow in ways that surprise you. Don’t sweat it either way. Friend, you’ve got this. I believe in you and your story! (Even when it doesn’t play by the rules.)
Don’t be afraid to stray off the marked path of your story’s progression. Take a foray into the wilderness. See what you find.
And happy trails!