I’ll address something that is not always evident about most writers, and that is … are they plotters or pantsers?
Let me explain the difference.
A plotter researches a book before writing it, laying out an overview with major plot points. Plotters know what will happen at the beginning, middle, and end of the book. Character sketches are usually part of the outline.
R.L. Stine: “If you do enough planning before you start to write, there's no way you can have writer's block. I do a complete chapter by chapter outline.”
John Grisham: “I've learned that the more time I spend on the outline the easier the book is to write. And if I cheat on the outline I get in trouble with the book.”
A pantser, on the other hand, is a writer who has a vague idea of a story and begins writing by the seat of his or her pants. There is no framework. The characters take over, and the author records the events as they unfold.
Margaret Atwood: "When I'm writing a novel, what comes first is an image, scene, or voice ... The structure or design gets worked out in the course of the writing. I couldn't write the other way round, with structure first. It would be too much like paint-by-numbers."
Stephen King: "Outlines are the last resource of bad fiction writers who wish to God they were writing masters' theses."
Ouch! Stephen King can be such a meanie.
Obviously, both methods have their advocates.
As for me, I’m a devoted pantser.
I jump in and start writing the moment an idea enters my head. Research and the development of details such as setting, timelines, names and ages of characters are done as I’m writing the story, and not before. Though I’m capable of creating a rough outline before I begin a story, it quickly goes off track once I’m at my keyboard. I can’t keep my pantsy nature in check.
It's just how my brain is wired.
|I'm definitely a right-brained pantser|
If being a pantser sounds scary to you—it’s scary for me too at times. Imagine taking a road trip without a map or a destination. I simply pack my bags, get in the car, and drive as long as I'm able to see in front of me. Eventually, I'll know when I’ve arrived.
I do, however, jot down notes along the way to figure out how the plot resolves, so even though the initial draft is written by the seat of my pants, rewrites and edits help organize the story. Somehow, it all comes together in the end, but I might not get there for awhile. (I'm working on this part!).
I’d guess that even the most avid plotters must remain flexible, which means they have to listen to their characters and alter the original outline if needed.
I’m by no means an “anti-plotter” like Stephen King. His genius rests with putting his characters in difficult situations and observing what crops up. Because he never plans to rescue them, something awful usually happens. That’s when his stories come to life.
|A scene from Stephen King's The Shining|
As writing is an iterative process, it’s fair to assume that most writers mix in elements of both plotting and pantsing, or plantsing (I made up this word, but it's probably been used before!). Each iteration or draft should be better than the previous one. As such, whether an author is a plotter or a pantser is not that important for readers to know.
All they want is a good story, and that can be accomplished by both.
How about you? Do you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser, or have you found a way to straddle both in your writing, so maybe a plantser? 😉
Thanks for reading. Feel free to ask questions or leave a comment.
I'd love to hear from you,