One charm of both growing older and practicing writing craft for many years has been gaining the skills for dealing with my more annoying writing proclivities. The bad habits that hold me back. That hold many a writer back, in fact. Specifically, in this case, the vicious cycle of starting a project, then jumping to a new project before finishing because the new idea looks both shinier and easier than the current one.
I enjoy a challenge, but only to a certain point, so if a task feels beyond my skills to overcome, I will simply walk away. This habit comes from playing puzzle-based video games when I was a kid. I found that instead of bashing my head against a room I couldn’t solve, I could put the controller down, do something else, and chew on the problem in the background. Once I returned, often the answer came to me immediately. So when I run up against a plot problem, I tend to do the same thing.
Only there’s always a new idea bubbling in the back of my brain, ready to pounce the second I look away from that original project. I’ll work on this instead. I’m sure I’ll finish this one.
On and on.
One memory about my time as a member of the Writers’ Club in my high school sticks out to me. The English teacher who organized the club had reached out to a local writer, asking her to meet with our group at the local coffee shop in the tiny town where our school was located. My area oozes writers—probably because of some cosmic vortex that churns them out of the dry dirt, reaching hands up toward the vast, impossibly vast blue sky overhead for literally anything beyond a monotonous high plains landscape—so she could’ve been anybody. I didn’t catch her name because I was a teenager and bad with names.
I’m still bad with names but no longer a teenager. I wish I’d remembered who she was.
My friends and I met with this writer in the evening, early enough in the school year that the weather hadn’t yet changed to nasty, blustery cold. We sat outside, where we could barely hear each other every time a train rumbled past on the nearby tracks. We held our notebooks poised, ready to jot down any writing wisdom she thought to dole out.
Alright, we've discussed the concept of plotters vs. pantsers enough by now. Haven't we? I just know you, as a writer, have bumped into this question already. Probably you've read the descriptions of each to find which writing style you adhere to most. I bet you're sure which camp you belong to, aren't you?
Yet...maybe you're not so sure. Maybe you find a little of column A and a little of column B appealing? I know I do. There's just something about having some preparation to guide my way, while still leaving room for inspiration and surprise as I go.
I'm not the only one who's felt more kinship with a planning process between plotting and pantsing. In "Plotter, Pantser, Architect, Gardener," EV Emmons posits a third type: landscapers. Her description seems to indicate landscapers land closer to the pantser side of things.
So in addition to landscapers, I wish to suggest one more in-between planning style. One similar to but opposite landscapers, closer to the plotter side of this binary.