Not every book is written equally, and not every writer plots their story before they write it! For those unfamiliar with the “pantser” vs. “plotter” method, The Girl From Yesterday author Kathryn Miller Haines can give you the deets! Then see just how good a well-plotted novel can be and download a copy of her new novel today! We promise you’ll be on the edge of your seat the entire time. Link below!
The Girl from Yesterday marks a departure for me in a number of ways. It’s my first published book set in contemporary times. It’s my first book set in my home state of Texas. It’s my first psychological thriller. And it’s the first time I wasn’t a pantser but a plotter.
For those not fluent in the parlance of writers, a “pantser” is not, in fact, a writer who wears no pants (which often I don’t), but rather a writer who “lives by the seat of their pants,” eschewing outlines in favor of just letting the story go wherever it may go. Those of us who practice this dark art justify it in a variety of ways: it makes the story more organic, the writing more natural, the process more akin to actually reading a book since the writer doesn’t know what’s going to happen either.
And that’s all true, but the problem is, when you write by the seat of your pants, you can also make that first draft an unnecessarily long process. Because you don’t know where you’re going, you end up with a lot of false starts. And when you do start to revise, there’s a lot of excess fat to trim because you might have had lots of divergent little side trips as you spun your wheels trying to figure out where to take the story next.
So at the urging of my writing group, I decided to start this book with an outline that we pored over again and again and again.
I had fooled myself for years into believing that outlines made the writing process a lot less fun. By plotting everything out, you didn’t get a chance to make those delicious discoveries that I often had while writing my previous books. And that may be the case for some writers who adhere very strictly to an outline, but it doesn’t have to be. I diverted a lot from that initial map I drew for myself because, oftentimes, what I plotted in advance felt unnatural once I got to know my characters better. So I allowed inspiration to still strike and would periodically take a different path, altering the outline in the process. The important thing was that I knew where the story was starting and where it would end up, as well as some of the crucial points in between.
And my writing ended up being a lot faster this time around. Rather than staring at the page having no idea where to take the story next, I had my guide to remind me where the story needed to go next.
I’m not a total convert, but I think I’m a hybrid of the two styles now: a plot-pantser if you will. Though I still don’t wear pants when I write.