So you’re a plotter. You’ve come up with the perfect idea for a show. You sit down, write a one-pager, a 3-page synopsis, a beat sheet, an outline, and get to work on your first draft. The writing is going swiftly because you know precisely where the story is going according to your plotting aids when BAM! Your story takes an unexpected turn which fundamentally changes the original idea causing a rush of anxiety and sweat as your fingers hover above your keyboard trying to decide if you should allow your story to take you into unknown territory.
You absolutely should venture to the unknown.
Welcome to the pantser way of life.
Pantsers “fly by the seat of their pants” meaning very little or none of their story is planned at all. They take the story in any direction they want, never knowing what is coming from one page to the next. They write themselves a story, finding joy in unexpectedness. For the plotter, this is anxiety-inducing but there are some benefits to allowing yourself to go-with-the-flow.
Yes, going-with-the-flow of your story could mean changing elements that were written earlier. In some cases, it may mean losing an entire draft and starting over. Whatever the case may be, when your characters begin to take on a life of their own and better ideas present themselves, you owe it to yourself to explore the possibilities! It means you have done such an excellent job creating characters that they have claimed their voice. Spend some time with each individual character allowing their voice to speak. Type out a conversation in which the character speaks freely and use this new insight to make changes in your draft.
If you do find that you need to rework earlier scenes but want to continue exploring the new direction your story is taking, simply make notations on your outline or beat sheet and continue forward. Chances are, when a big change occurs, rewrites and edits will have to be made to any previously written material. Save those notes for working into the next draft.
Whether you are a plotter or a pantser, you should take some time to explore how the other half lives. If you’ve always flown by the seat of your pants, try doing a beat sheet and see how your writing is affected. For you plot-for-lifers out there, give yourself a pass to write freely and experience the joy of the unknown. You may surprise yourself and get one step closer to completing your next draft!
Can’t seem to finish your script? Trying to find out if you’re the plotter or pantser in your life? Check out the TheaterMakers Studio here!