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A Writer's Rule



So far this morning I have spilled coffee on my office floor. Spilled coffee on my desk (two separate incidents) and poked myself in my own eye with my glasses.


Yes, it did hurt.


It's barely 9 am. I have plans that involve me leaving the house later and I'm a tiny bit concerned about being unsupervised out there if I can't even get my glasses on without causing self harm. So instead, I do what comforts me best. I write. Rather, I plot. Here's where it gets interesting. You know the old question for us writers.


Plotter or pantser?


This debate has been raging in the writing community for years. There are entire courses devoted to it.

There are advantages to both I suppose. Plotters spend a massive amount of time on world building and creating character tics. Some of the more ambitious ones even create their own languages for their characters. There's much to be said for this method. If you plot this meticulously, you know exactly where your story is going and it can make it a lot easier. Sub-plots are developed, story arcs are defined from beginning to end and plot holes are neatly plugged.


No surprises. Character A starts out in a car headed to Kansas City and they take a pre-planned route with no unforeseen incidents to get there.


Things are different for a pantser. You just write and let the story go where it may. You put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard and just let the words free flow. Characters emerge at will. Plot lines boil to the surface on their own. Ideas emerge and break free-kind of like free range chickens. But like the eggs from said chickens, is the result actually better? There are arguments for both. But don't take sides just yet.

You see, there's a third option and that's where I fall.


I start with a written plot. An outline, if you will. A general idea. Maybe some plot lines emerge. Maybe some character traits. Maybe some world building. It's a great place to start. Though try as I might, I can never stick to it. Character A will be walking along following the plan when something will come out of the blue and force them to run, jump or-you know, do whatever. Some characters are lost along the way. Some are born. Some pop up out of the mist and demand to be fleshed out. This does sometimes take me around a bush or two but eventually a character's voice will emerge. It may or may not align with the outline but I've learned not to fight it.


Unconventional. Unscripted. Unexpected. Maybe it's all or none of these. But that's the beauty of writing. As long as the end result is a well crafted story, there are no rules. This works for me.

What works for you?

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