Pantsers vs. Plotters

Now that I’ve finished a fabulous series on plotting a great story, it’s time to comment on the idea of outlining. I’ve mentioned this before, but there are two types of writers in the world: those who plot out the entire story before they begin writing (plotters) and those who do little-to-no planning before they begin writing (pantsers, as in by-the-seat-of-the-pants). I’m firmly entrenched in the plotters category. In fact, two weeks ago a great scene popped into my head that took place near the half-way point of my story, but I was only one-quarter of the way through the writing process. I figured I’d better write that scene out before I forgot all the good stuff I came up with. So I wrote it. Then I had to back up to the point where I’d left off and fill in all the stuff that took place between. Talk about anxiety! My poor linear brain is just NOT equipped to deal with non-linear writing. I wrote fast and furious to fill up the space and get that pre-written scene into chronological order with the rest of the story.

I have a pantser friend who has started to come around to my way of thinking (Dragonfallacy, that’s you!). She now admits that she plots bits of her story before she writes. Sometimes she starts writing, then plots for a bit, then writes for a bit, then when she gets stuck she goes back to plotting. She admitted to me just today that *gasp* she frequently starts out with a scene at some random place within the first half of the story. She’s *accustomed* to writing scenes out of order. I can’t even begin to express how wrong that feels to me. It’s like an architect trying to build a building without blueprints. Its like putting your socks on over your shoes. Its like putting mayonnaise on your peanut butter sandwich. It’s Just Not Done.

(This “don’t do it” photo courtesy of

Yet I know people do it all the time, and they manage to get books written. Obviously, there’s no right or wrong way. But there is a way that feels natural to me. I’ll stick with it and not feel guilty that I can’t stray outside the boundaries of my comfort zone to try someone else’s way of doing things. I applaud my pantser friend for trying things my way. She found a nice common ground between the two that works for her. I personally think she may end up following rabbit trails that don’t go where they should, so when it comes time to edit she finds herself deleting some unusable prose, but I haven’t had any confirmation on my theory yet. And if she does, so what? The more writing you do, the better you get at it. Someone somewhere said it takes 10,000 hours of doing something to become an expert at it. If you put in your 10,000 hours and end up deleting some of those words, you’ve still put in the time. My friend and I have both put in a lot more than 10,000 hours, so I think we’re doing dandy.

What about you, loyal readers? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you find yourself somewhere between the two? Can you write in a non-linear fashion without stressing out about it? Share your wisdom with the group.



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