Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pansters and Plotters

When I first started writing, I was totally a pantser. Whatever came to my head in terms of scene, I'd write. While this made for a fun first draft, it proved to be utter shit for my revision process*. As I progressed in my writing, I tried different things. Like plotting something out.

Talk about life-changing. My drafting time went from three years to two months. In turn, my revision process went smoother.

After years of pantsing, I've become a plotter. This November will mark my second plotter anniversary. With a few years under my belt, I thought it would be nice to give a rundown of what's different between plotters and pantsers.

  • Go into a project with a rough idea. The key here is rough. They might only have a piece of a scene.
  • Work more off of premise. Battling robots might sound awesome, but it's not enough to build a 50,000 word novel.
  • Have more writer's block. They write themselves into a corner and can't figure out how to get back other than trashing everything and start over.
  • Jump right in, sometimes the instant a shiny new idea hits the noggin.
  • Get distracted easier. With nothing firmly next on the writing agenda, it's easier to walk away to "think about what comes next."

  • Go into a project with a full realized story. They know the key players, how the story starts, develops, and ends.
  • Take a premise and examine it to see if it's strong enough to create a story around. If those battling robots were created to protect the town from the ongoing dragon raids, they have more to work with.
  • Have writer's block, but it's not as severe. If they write themselves into a corner, they can just skip to the next scene.
  • Take their time. They do research, draft outlines, fill out worksheets. It's like useful procrastination**.
  • Know where they're going. There's no need to take a long break to figure out the next scene when it's already there.
Plotting doesn't need to take the fun out of writing. If you plot loose enough, you still have the flexibility of a pantser, only with more structure. With the best of both methods at your fingers, you should find that your plots are stronger and still surprising as well.

What method works best for you?

* I'm looking at you, first book.
**Unlike Bejeweled.
Last.fm hit of the day: Christine by Siouxsie and The Banshees


  1. both. i mostly pants it, with maybe a few plotty things along the way. i don't generally just jump in, but as soon as i've got a good scene, i jot that down. after i've got 3-4 scenes then i'll jump in. i've learned that if i get too plotty, i get bored and already know what happens and don't want to write. but that's just me and my ADD.

  2. Loose plotting is where I like to find myself. I start now with a synopsis. Things can change, new and better ideas might come into play, but i have a plan. I also think that working with a synopsis can help keep the pacing up!

  3. I become more and more of a strict plotter the more I write. I was a total pantser, then a halfsie, then a mostly plotter ... see the trend? Pretty soon I'm going to be that girl with a 35-page outline. ;)

  4. Plotter. The idea must "cook" upstairs for a long while, sometimes months before I'm ready to have a go at it.

    I don't honestly believe there is such a thing as writer's block. It's just not coming, for whatever reason; you must never get freaked out over it.

  5. I guess I'm both. I always thought I was a pantser, but I always let an idea simmer for a year or two. And I always know my characters well before I start, and always know where the book is going (I know conflicts and end). I just don't always know how it will get there. I do lots of brainstorming, and notes while I draft, but I don't outline until I revise. So, I don't really know. I'm a mutt. :)


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