When it comes to writing stories, every author has their own flow of how it’s done. While some techniques between authors are similar, they are still quite unique in their own right. So, are you a pantser or a plotter?
Perhaps more importantly, does it really matter?
For transparency, I plotted Kingmaker when I wrote its first draft. It’s just what works best for me.
Difference Between a Pantser and Plotter
A “pantser” is someone who essentially writes by the “seat of their pants.” In other words, they simply start writing with nothing more than a basic idea of the story.
A “plotter” is an author who plans out how the story will unfold. This usually leads to meticulous breakdowns of each chapter and how the manuscript will connect to form the story.
The extent to which the plotter will plan out the tale depends on the author. Some will use basic plot points to make sure the story has a good arc while others will dive deep into details of every element in the tale.
Pros and Cons of Being a Pantser
Some authors are capable of thinking of a basic idea for a story, sitting down at the keyboard, and hammering out a work of art. However, it’s not always as cut and dried as that.
Sure, you can jump in and start writing immediately. But it can also cause issues when you get stuck on how to proceed after a certain event or situation in the manuscript. This can lead to the dreaded writer’s block.
Once that happens, a lot of pantsers will move on to another project until they can overcome the blockage. This could lead to having several partial manuscripts at any given time.
Still, there are a lot of authors who love the idea of not knowing how a story will unfold. Some believe that if they planned out the story, then there is no reason to write it.
Personally, I’d have to disagree with that viewpoint. Just because you know the destination, doesn’t mean you know how the journey will unfold. A lot can happen between point A and point B.
Pros and Cons of Being a Plotter
When you take the time to plot a manuscript, you’ll have a much clearer path to follow as you write. This can easily reduce the risks of getting hit with writer’s block.
However, a single change to the story could ultimately affect the outline. That means you’ll have to spend time re-planning the remainder of the story for continuity.
Plotting can take some time before you actually start the writing process, but you’ll also find that it’s easier to maintain a good pace for each chapter.
Yet, a lot of people don’t like the idea of plotting as it seems too mundane or dull. Instead of an organic flow of words, it could feel as though the story is forced to fit.
What is a Plantser?
A “plantser” is someone who is in between a pantser and a plotter. Usually, plantsers will have a general idea of the story while making a few points they want to hit on while writing.
These authors don’t go to the lengths a plotter will for outlining a story, but they also don’t simply start writing without putting in a bit of thought of where the manuscript will go.
What’s the Bottom Line of Pantser vs Plotter?
In the grand scheme of things, the best method for working on your stories is what works best for you. Some authors have incredible success writing by the seat of their pants while others like a uniform collection of thoughts.
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer. As long as you’re capable of stringing coherent sentences together in a way that engages your reader, that is all that truly matters.
Good story and character arcs can come whether you’re a pantser or a plotter.
In reality, I find it a moot argument. It really doesn’t matter how you write the story as long as you write it. Success relies on your ability to tell a good tale regardless if you plot it out or not.
If you’re unsure which is right for you, I’d suggest trying both methods. Write a few short stories using each method to get a feel for the flow.
You could use a plot generator to get a few ideas to practice and then experiment to find the best fit for your style.
You may find that it’s easier to write your stories using one method over the other. Then again, you could also discover that you’re somewhere in between depending on the manuscript.
Am I a Pantser or a Plotter?
When it comes to longer storylines, I generally plot them out with points of what I want throughout the book. These are segments in brackets of elements that I would like to include and are written within the manuscript itself.
That way, I remember where I am in the story and what I am writing toward. Because I often take so long to write a first draft, I often get lost when I have time to come back to write more.
However, it also depends greatly on how the story unfolds. Something could happen in chapter two that ultimately changes my plans for chapter eight. And yes, that has happened a lot.
For example, a bracketed section could look like this:
[Man looks at the bad guy and says, "I'm afraid I can't let you eat that man."] [They fight. Man kicks the other into the river at the end - he is taken out of sight by the current.] [Bad guy dropped a necklace with unknown markings on the back (Gloria's family heirloom necklace)]
Then, I would change the “man” and “bad buy” texts to reflect names when I settle on certain characters. Though, normally, I already have details like that planned beforehand.
After I write the bracketed section, I delete it from the manuscript and move on to the next.
So, I guess I would land somewhere in between being a pantser and a plotter as I do make plot points but often change them as the story develops further.
Things I’ll add to brackets in my planning phase include:
- Dialogue I think of while I’m taking a walk
- Specific scenes I would like to flesh out
- Things I might need to research to make logical sense (such as travel time by horseback)
- Plot points that I need to work into the story
- Notes to myself regarding characters, places, or objects
As I said, though, these bracketed items often change depending on how the story unfolds.
Novels vs Short Stories
I don’t always plot out my manuscripts, however. I find that when it comes to some short stories, I simply start typing until the story is told.
For instance, the short stories I have on Wattpad were all written from the “seat of my pants.” Yet, I still plot VII, mostly because there are references within each story that lead to things further down the line.
Since I don’t have the sharpest memory, I put those things in brackets so I don’t forget. Otherwise, a lot of parts in the book wouldn’t make sense.
How Do You Write Your Stories?
Everyone will discover the best methods that work for them to write a book. As long as it works for you and your stories connect with the reader in some way, then you’re a success.
Whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, it all comes down to your ability to weave a tale people want to read.
What methods have worked best for you in the past?
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