Story Planning: Are you a plotter or a Pantser?

Plot outline - visualI’d been writing for years before I heard of the terms “plotter” and “pantser” (aka pantster).  A plotter is a writer who (duh!) plots out every little detail of their book before they ever pen the first line.  Fantasy and sci fi writers in particular are notorious for spending months and even years plotting out their complex alternate worlds.  Pantsers write “by the seat of their pants”.  They take a story idea and dive in head first, without major pre-plotting.

I started out as a meticulous plotter.  I had enormous Word and Scrivner files dedicated to story outlines and character profiles.  At some point I realized my final stories didn’t resemble my original outlines, the ones I’d spent hours and hours laboring over.  I switched camps and went full on pantser.  As a result, much editing was required as sometimes my stories veered way off course and the plot lines and character development got quite tangled.

I’ve subsequently settled somewhere in between.  Once I land on a story idea I want to develop, I do a short plotting and planning process similar to what is described in this awesome blog article by Glen C. Strathy over at “How to Write a Book Now”:  Create A Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps.  Glen introduces a quick, plotter and pantser friendly method to draft a basic plot outline in less than an hour.  This can serve as a great starting point for plotters and a good anchor for pantsers as well.  It’s not quite as easy as he makes it seem, but it is a wonderful exercise and a great resource.

I highly recommend his blog as a great resource for writers.

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2 thoughts on “Story Planning: Are you a plotter or a Pantser?

  1. I’ve had a serious experience. I have tried both ways and the plotting method just never creates an original enough story because of how structured it is…however the punster way resulted in 300 pages of my story having to be rewritten because the story had veered so far off course. I will definitely choose a middle path with my next story!

    • I agree. At least for me, something in the middle is the best. Of course, I plot a lot in my head as I’m a constant daydreamer and I’ve visualized most the scenes in my head before I even write them. But putting at least some of it down on paper without going overboard at least keeps me organized and keeps the story goal, etc., in the front of my mind as I write.

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