Monday, March 20, 2017

Plansting with Kendra E. Ardnek

Hello! I'm here myself to talk with you today about "Plantsing," which isn't actually about how to plant your book in a flowerpot, but is actually a smushed up word between "plotting" and "pantsing." It's my own personal choice when it comes to how I prepare to write my books, as, like the word itself, it takes the best of both writing styles and makes it so much more awesome.

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So, anyway, over to me!

Plotting is when you write up a detailed outline of your novel before you start writing and then follow it religiously.

Pantsing is when you open a blank document with a random idea, and just write with no idea of where the story is going to go. You're writing by the seat of your pants. (Hence the name)

Plantsing is anything in between. As such, there is no right way to go about it. My personal plantsing style is that I will have extensive plans in my head for the story ... but I almost never write them down and thus keep a loose hand on my plot as I write it. I will occasionally make myself a chapter list, but that's rare, and usually on a rewrite.

I've tried plotting, but my eyes glaze over when it comes to that much organizing, and the one time that I wrote a summary (For Do You Take This Quest?), I nearly killed my inspiration for the story.

I've tried pantsing ... but I usually run out of inspiration in five chapters (and I'll be lucky to have made it that far) or my brain runs ahead of me and I have the whole thing plotted before I sit down to write it. My most pansted novel was The Ankulen, and, even then, I had my several scenes already well-plotted out.

Since there's no "right" way to plants your book (other than the requirement of planting your gluteus maximus in a chair ... and even that is negotiable if you use a standing desk), I'm not going to tell you how to plants, just how to find your own, personal, plansting style.

First of all, experiment. Write a book with a full, bullet-pointed outline, and, at the same time, write another book with no idea where it's going. Just start with a princess and a sword, and see where it goes. Try in-between methods - instead of a full outline, just write a proposed chapter list. Write a list a goals and write a book to fulfill those goals. Experiment. See what you like.

Don't be afraid to mix and match. Plantsting is all about what works for YOU. Find YOUR balance between plotting and pantsing.

Understand that what works for me won't necessarily work for you. And what works for Suzy probably won't work exactly right for you. I plot about 90% mentally, but that's not practical for most writers, as they don't have my steel-trap memory. Margaret Sue might plants by writing up a chapter list, but you find, when you do that, your chapters never work out the way you'd intended.

Find a plotting structure that works well for you. I'm not saying a METHOD, I mean a structure. Whether it's the roller coaster model or the three-act play, have a structure for your plotting. My own method is what I call the mid-goal planning. Basically, I break my story up into mini goals, and use them to build up to the final climax. I allot myself anywhere from 15,000 to 40,000 words to meet each goal.

Be prepared for rewriting. As a general rule, the less planning you do, the messier your first draft will be. I'm not saying that a pantsted novel can't be well written, or that a thoroughly plotted book will be publish-ready the moment you type "the end," just as a general rule. Writing a first draft is like digging for a treasure. The less-detailed your map, the more unnecessary dirt you're going to have to dig through.

Keep a firm eye on your vision, but a loose hand on your plot. The beauty of plansting is that it affords you the structure of plotting, but the freedom of pantsting. You'll know what you want from a story before you go into it, but your plot and characters will have the freedom to fulfill that vision however is natural.

But be prepared to change your goals if your characters want to do something else. I'm not saying that you have let the dark lord take over the world just because your MC decided that they'd rather sew than practice magic. I'm saying that if your character would rather sew than practice magic, use sewing to take down the dark lord.  For instance - and spoilers here if you haven't read The Ankulen yet - I had planned the final battle of The Ankulen to be just Jen vs. the Polystoikhedron. But, when I got there, there was a witness character who I hadn't planned for him to be there - Derek, her adopted brother, who had been a general jerk for most of his screentime in the book. And, I realized that, if he just stood back and watched her walk into that battle alone, there would be no redemption for his character, and I didn't want that to happen to her brother. So I let him accompany her, and it turned out a thousand times more beautiful that I had previously imagined.

I think that's everything, so, go forth my newly-trained plantsers, and plants.


  1. I'm a plantser. :) I usually keep a really rough, short outline of things I want to happen and the rest is kind of in my head. And I pretty much usually just go forth and write. I've never hardcore outlined. I think I'd kill the idea if I did. But maybe I'll try it one of these days and see what happens. Until then, I'll be a plantser and proud of it. ;)

  2. I outline in my head a good deal but some of the best moments in my story just popped out in the midst of writing and/or revising.

  3. Say Hello to another proud Plantser! ;-)

    I generally have an idea of what I want to happen in the book, and I do have a specific Word document for ideas, but I like to have a fairly free hand for the actual writing, to leave room for organic development.

  4. *highfives fellow plantser* :D I'm definitely a big mix of plotting and pantsing - it really depends on what draft of the story I'm on. So plantser for me it is!

    ~ Savannah

  5. Huzzah for plantsing!

    I love your last paragraph, by the way. Particularly the part about using sewing to take down the villain. I need a story where that happens now. xD


Hi! Now that you've read my post, hast thou any opinions that thou wouldst like to share? I'd love to hear them!

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