Are You a Plotter or a Pantser?



It has taken a while to figure out which way works best for plotting and scheming a novel. The two extremes are plotting. It is a method involving working out as much of the detail as possible beforehand. The other is pantsing a term used for flying by the seat of your pants. When a writer sits down and completes the entire novel without an outline. I have plotted one, pantsed one, and used a combination of the two. The first novel was written from start to finish with no outline. The third was detailed with 2-3 paragraphs per chapter. The irony is that both required volumes of re-working, rewriting and editing.

Finding the Best Fit

The way that works best can not only change for each person, but it can also change for each story. So if you find yourself wondering why one method was fantastic for the last story, yet stalls you on the next try a different technique. The one that worked best for me involved a combination, two-thirds pantsing and the last third plotting. Why? I find pantsing is fantastic for leading my characters into so much trouble. By the time I made it to the last third the conflict had grown too complicated. I had to stop and figure out how the protagonist was going to find a way out.

Going Forward

I sketched an outline for the fourth novel length manuscript. So far the story has veered off course. I will start panicking when I reach the two-thirds mark. Where the characters are in so much trouble I have to find a way out. Don’t be afraid to find out what method what works best for you.





5 comments on “Are You a Plotter or a Pantser?”

  1. Great post! I tend toward a combination of both: I write and write and write, getting all of my ideas out there; within the document I’ll have headers like “scene to place” with a brief description. Once I’ve gotten to a point that needs more structure to find out which way to go, I’ll outline. I would also add another technique that I do a lot of: Puzzling. I write puzzle pieces, then place them together and smooth the “edges”. For “The Cardinal”, a fantasy sci-fi epic novel I wrote, I actually wrote three separate storylines (ancient Scotland, ancient Norway and modern-day Scotland), beginning to end, and then wove them together in the final draft.

      1. I did! I’m working on my 5th novel right now, the third in a historical trilogy, and because of the subject matter, it required a lot more planning, research and outlining. I’m now into the final editing phase – that final stretch every author looks forward to with trepidation! 🙂

      2. Congratulations on making it through the wild jungle of editing! I was so nervous doing the last round of editing. All the way through I couldn’t wait to reach the end, but then I wanted the final round to last forever. It’s a great accomplishment ☺️

      3. I think it was Steven Spielberg who once said, “Editing never ends – you just get (your movie) released.” I think the same can be said of editing… at some point we’ve got to let our babies go and grow up, and take on their own identity in the minds of our readers. It’s the letting go that’s always the hard part!

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