Storytelling Specter 5 – Plotters and Pantsers

There are two types of people, I’m told, that typically do “big” writing (i.e. novels, series of novels, etc).  I’ve decided to do a little personal analysis as I talk about plotters and pantsers.

StorytellingSpecter300First and foremost, let me tell you what the hell a pantser is: that is the type of person who doesn’t plan out anything before hand and just writes by the seat of their pants.  Yes, that is directly opposite of the plotter… so, column over, right?


When I started writing many moons ago (I say that because of a funny thing I like to say: when someone says “back in the day” I say they’re talking about a Wednesday) I was a pantser and I knew it.  There was very little that I knew before hand (other than a general direction) and in the case of the mysteries I wanted to write, I wanted to be as surprised as the reader.

Wait… what?

Yes, I wanted to write a mystery without knowing who did it and how they did it.  How in the hell am I supposed to write something like that without knowing where I’m going?  Well, that’s when I started writing a whole lot better.

I wrote by the seat of my pants, letting every action scene just sort of happen and having several of my really good ideas be completely controlled by where my characters wanted to go rather than where I wanted them to go.  Have you ever had your characters run your story?  It happens and I understand when people complain about things like that.

Since I’ve grown in my writing endeavors, I’ve turned (with some excitement I might add) to plotting.  Rather than writing on the edge of my seat, not entirely certain where I was going with my stories, I now plot out things a lot more so I have not only a general direction but key points to get to at each stage.  How detailed to I get?  Well, that varies on the story.

I have gotten as deep as detailing the contents of entire scenes, making sure certain beats were hit in order to set things up for the next scene or series of scenes.  I’ve also been dialed back enough to work with just scene titles, that way I can write the scene, then start writing up to the next scene and still give my characters some free reign.

Sometimes the characters are that interesting.

In the end, the method you use really depends on how you work best.  If you work well with pantsing your way through your stories, keep doing it!  Why would you stop doing something that works for you?  If you are getting the results you want, don’t change.

Do you like the idea of plotting things out?  Try it.  Maybe you’ll discover that you write BETTER doing things those of us on that side of the fence already do.  Maybe you’ll even get a lot better and sell that first novel in the process.

Who knows?

Write it.