Thoughts on Plotting (From a Pantser)

Plotting a Book Is Like Pulling Teeth – A Pantser’s Confession About Drafting

Posted February 1, 2021 by Amber in Writing / 2 Comments


True facts:  I am not a plotter.

The greatest joy in writing, for me, is sitting down with a blank sheet and filling it.  I’m the type of person who comes up with scenes and moments in her head while in the shower or while commuting when I can’t write anything down, and replays them over and over and over until I can get to a pen and paper.  My writing is an adventure in my mind, completely unstructured.

And over the years I have learned that is fine for NaNoWriMo, and a mess if I actually want to get anything done.

I get to the middle of a book and go, “Well, crap.  Where is this all headed, exactly?”.  I am the same type of writer as I am a reader.  I enjoy the journey, and the ending is just icing.  I like spending time with the characters above all else.

This is a problem for me when it comes to drafting.  I lose my way.  So as I’ve been working on Rhapsody In Blue so far this year (after a drought in December, eek), I’ve been looking towards plotting so I have some structure.  And to do that, I’ve been looking at the Save the Cat model.

This model seems to be particularly popular among YA writers – off the top of my head, I’ve seen both Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman reference it, as well as countless others on #AmWriting on Twitter.  Gotta be easy, right?  As it turns out, I’m like a deer in the headlights when it comes to plotting.  I have such a difficult time committing to just one direction, one step.  Rhapsody has already evolved so much from conception – a story that started as a quarantine haunted house horror story has had its setting and date changed, and now feels a bit more Scooby-Doo (I am okay with this).  This has been such a weird book to discover.  Plotting it has been, frankly, a struggle.

Normally, this is the point where I want to switch off to writing a Draft Zero of something else, rather than face the hard part.  As a pantser, it’s easier for me to write new stories.  Many first drafts, no second drafts.  Because after the initial idea, that’s when the work starts.  And that’s one of the reasons I’ve struggled with Rhapsody.  It was easy to write a first draft when all the passion and inspiration was there, but even with a guide, it’s challenging to structure something when your brain works in a more chaotic manner.

But I’ve been working on it.  Because writing isn’t a game.  It’s work.

Rhapsody in Blue Plotting

I think that pantsing has its place in the writing process.  For me, it’s the fun part of the process.  But to create a consistent book with decent flow, as a writer, I need to tighten the structure.  And to do that, plotting goal posts are necessary to keep everything reined in.  For me, plotting is my least favorite part of the process, but it’s a very necessary part of the process.  For many writers it’s the first step – that doesn’t work for me, but I still don’t get to skip it together.  Alas, alack.

It’s necessary.  And with January done, I have the plot outline for Rhapsody done.  By the end of March, I’m hoping to have Act I written.  I did use the Save the Cat method and I think it makes a lot of sense, from a reader’s perspective, and it’s a good way to balance your book and maintain pacing.

For this WIP, the plotting is done, but I won’t make it glamorous.  As a pantser, no matter how I go about it, plotting is a struggle.  Give me characters to build, worlds to imagine, and beautiful pages to fill!  Still, the plot outline is such an essential foundation – it may not be pretty, but I can build my world on top of it.


What is your least favorite part of the drafting process?  Character creation?  World building?  Line edits?  Or plotting, like me?  Let me know in the comments.

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2 responses to “Plotting a Book Is Like Pulling Teeth – A Pantser’s Confession About Drafting

  1. Monica Laurette

    I feel this so hard. I have one story I have been writing for about eight years because almost every time I go to edit the draft I find a different way to extend and tell the story, or even change like major parts of it. It’s almost like I like the writing part of it more than the work afterwards to actually get something made for submission haha. I actually have a new direction for the book and might just start a whole new document so I don’t delete the current ‘first draft’ that I have.

    All that being said though, I can’t wait to see more in your writing journey and to one day hold your book! Rhapsody sounds so good and having a Scooby-Doo feel? OH COUNT ME IN HARD!

    • Amber

      Oh my gosh I hear you. The the story crafting that’s the most fun! I’m having such a hard time getting this one started. I’ve re-written the beginning twice now and I think I’m going to scrap what I have and start a little further in the future because there’s just not enough momentum. 🙁 Thank you for your support!!! <3