In the universe of authors, there are really only two forms of intelligent life: “plotters” and “pantsers”. I admit it—I’m a “pantser”. I open my Surface, fire up Scrivner, and let the words fly without a single thought about the plot. Sure, I have an overarching whisper of a hint of a possible idea, but I rarely know the complete picture going in. In fact, a novel I have been working on for years is mired in writer’s block hell because the entire story is already in my head, and I can’t put it on paper well enough to do it justice.
I usually start in the middle of the action, pulling a character out of thin air, place him/her on the page, and start throwing crap at them until they react. No matter how detailed I make my character sketch, though, the damn buggers always seem to have a mind of their own. Sometimes a new character will just barge into a scene without even asking, mucking up the grand schemes of my protagonist. I rarely know what will come out of their mouths until I type the words. A few have even refused to exit the story when their fifteen minutes is up.
What happens, though, when pantsing isn’t enough?
I once wrote a serialized novel for the website Channillo and reached the painful conclusion that I have to at least plan better. I like to write a chapter in a single shot, then go back and revise, sometimes not reconciling plot holes with earlier and later chapters until the first full revision. Sometimes I move scenes around or add new characters.
That simply can’t happen when you’re posting individual chapters online as soon as they’re finished.
Sure, I can make cosmetic corrections such as spelling, grammar, or some minor word choices. What I can’t do is change the plot after the fact, since doing so makes everything your audience has read wasted effort. That’s a great recipe for losing readers.
I remember a certain television show based on a bestseller setting up a major character, with a major storyline that should have had an arc that lasted at least to the final season, only to see it all wiped out in a single scene. Worse, it made every scene leading up to that completely pointless.
I nearly threw a book at the screen.
Don’t be that guy. Those writers make me see red.