I will never play “pantser” again. In case you don’t know, a “pantser” is an author who writes by the seat of his pants. I am naturally a “plotter,” an author who plots out the action in his novels, at least at the chapter level, all the way to the conclusion. A plotter knows how the story gets to its end before he writes word one.
Of course, no plotter anticipates every detail and no pantser is a pure stream of consciousness. Usually, I create an outline with a fair amount of detail, but I get ideas as I go along and am pretty flexible about inserting them and creating new threads in the outline. Then, I do a second draft in which I work all the unanticipated ideas of the later chapters back into the first few chapters. One thing I’ve learned is that, unless you’re a genius, you build complexity into a novel by such retroactive “layering.”
But with my latest novel, Snarkey & Putts IV: The Case of the Unchained Immigrant, I had such a strong sense of what would happen in the first few chapters that I threw plotting to the winds. I thought I’d get the first three or four chapters down and then do a detailed outline of the rest. But, after finishing the first three chapter, I got a feeling for the next few chapters; instead of forcing myself to outline, I kept writing. Then, the next few chapters came to me, and the next few.
Now I’ve got thirty chapters and 75,000+ words. The novel’s climax is clear in my mind, but the path to it has become obscure. It could be another 75,000 words away… and I swore to myself that no Snarkey & Putts story would ever be more than 60,000 words.
One of my literary heroes, John Steinbeck, once advised authors to put aside any thought that you would ever finish. I find myself taking comfort in his words, but I have the nagging suspicion that my current predicament is not what he was talking about.
Starting with my next book, I’m going back to being a plotter. The unfortunate truth is, whatever time pantsers save by launching directly into writing, they lose at the tail end by massive editing to get the work down to size. At least, that’s what it looks like I’ll be doing.
While I wrestle with this problem, here’s the latest of my YouTube videos, my humble self reading an excerpt from Snarkey & Putts, Paranormal Attorneys-At-Law III: The Case of the Canine’s Curse, a tid-bit from a chapter entitled, “Dog Rescue.” Pardon the fierce countenance. I was getting into it.