Plotting vs. Pantsing: Which Approach Works Best for You?

I remember the moment I realized why the book was boring so far. And like in many cases, the reason was conflict.

I was at page 30 at that point, if I remember correctly, and thinking “ok, the plot is progressing, it’s just not very interesting”. I didn’t know why it wasn’t interesting, but I thought I could fix it up later and I should just keep going. I still think this is good advice. If you feel something is off, it’s often not worth spending time figuring it out but rather keep going and go back later. And that’s what I did.

And then it hit me. I know why it’s boring.

Here’s what I had at that point: Kahn, an old friend of Feba (our protagonist wolf) came to visit her for the birth of her son, and when she’s thrown into her next adventure, he comes along with her. Now, the actual quest she was on was dramatic enough. Her daughter was sick and she must find the cause. So the stakes were high and clear. But the journey itself felt bland. Can you guess why? Could you spot it quicker than I did? It’s because both Kahn and Feba were perfectly aligned in their goals and personality. They both wanted each other’s best interests. Their most heated argument was about whether they should go through the river or the woods. It was a perfectly pleasant journey, but not an interesting one. So I had to take out my beloved cutting knife and make some drastic changes. Luckily for me, I’m pretty good with killing my darlings and rewriting huge sections of my writing if I believe in the reasons behind doing so. Not only is it easy for me – it excites me.

So the first step was to pull Kahn out of that journey. I still liked his visit for the opening exposition, but after that, he had to go home. Bye, Kahn! But that’s not enough. I now had to pair Feba up with someone she’d hate. Someone who will embody everything she doesn’t like, and push her buttons when possible. They also have to be someone who you would believe she would agree to travel with, so they can’t be a total monster. That’s how Juna and Rohan were born. Initially, there was a part in which Feba meets a pair of female wolves who escaped from the Moon clan, but it wasn’t until my revelation that I decided to give them a larger part in the story and turned them into the couple that is Juna and Rohan. By introducing a male Moon wolf, along with his baggage of misogyny and religious conviction, I was able to create plenty of room for conflict. And Juna was there to balance it out, as well as provide a believable reason for Feba to stick around.

This solution not only provided a more interesting journey but also ended up introducing very interesting characters, ones who I didn’t plan for when I outlined the book. Juna and Rohan came out of a technicality but ended up supporting both the theme and the plot in meaningful ways.

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