Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pantser or Plotter?

When you write a book, do you fly by the seat of your pants or plot it out play by play ?

I’ve experienced both now.

With my first book, I pants it all the way. This means creating the story along the way with only an idea of where the book should go. Honestly, I wrote the end first, then the beginning. After that I filled in the middle one chapter at a time. Occasionally, it was difficult because I’d finish a chapter and have to ponder what I should do next to have the plot progress to the ending I’d already written.

With my WIP, I decided I’d try my hand at being a plotter. Of course, I didn’t do a major huge outline the length of 20 pages. All I did was write a brief sentence or two about what I wanted to have happen in each chapter to get it to the ending I’d imagined. So far, it’s turned out to be successful. I like how quickly writing is going due to this method.

However, with my first book, I sort of didn’t know what I was doing at the beginning stage. It took learning more about the writing industry and a lot of great advice from critique partners and writing friends to help me get my book, Félicité Found, to where it is now—a query-able book.
This time around, I know the foundation of how to write a story well from chapter one. I feel like plotting it out has been a useful and beneficial technique.
Yet, maybe Félicité Found took longer to write because of not knowing where to go once I finished a chapter, but the creativity flowed just as easily. Only a couple times did I suffer from writer’s block.
I like both methods, but am partial to plotting now. Who knows what system I’ll use with my next project or those that follow, but they’re both ways in which a story can come to life.
So, as I asked before, are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you have a preference? And, why?


  1. I was quite surprised to find I did the exact same thing as you and in the same order. My first was by the seat and the second more plotted out. But I'm a panster at heart, I think. (There's just something funny about that term but I won't go into it now.) I think it is more coming from the heart. And there's always editing and a reviewer to get all the kinks worked out. I look forward to reading other responses to your question.

  2. Now, David, you can't bring up you think the term pantser is funny without letting us all in on the joke. haha Anyway, I see what you're saying. There is a liberating aspect without using a plan; it lets the story flow where it will, where it wants to go. And yes, editing works out the flaws.
    Thanks for the comment!

  3. I outlined my first novel (I can't quite call it plotting) and pantsed my way through my WIP. Now I'm having to go back and fix the structure of the pantsed novel. I don't think I'll ever get to the point of a chapter-by-chapter synopsis with color-coding and full-page characterizations before I write a word. However, I definitely am learning to get an overview of each character, know my plot points, and develop the novel with a rhythm. Here's hoping my new efforts are productive. I'll let you know how my next novel idea spills out!

  4. I'm winging it on my first, though I know exactly where the story is going.

    Once I'm done with this one, I think I will try working with an outline and see if I like that better.

  5. Julie - Yep, I feel like plotting my way through my WIP is going to help the writing to go quickly and then I won't have tons of things to fix throughout the MS afterwards. And, yes, here's hoping. haha

    idisagreecompletely - It is good to know exactly where you're going with you WIP. That'll help it to run smoothly. Yet, I thought I'd be a pantser forever but this plotting thing is really welcoming to me. I think I'm a fan.

  6. You know me, Jules. I'm the write as you go kinda girl. Never have been able to plot. When I try, the characters look at my idea's and decide they don't like them and go in their own direction.

    After reading what you've written so far, I think this WIP and FF are both wonderful books that should be favorites of all who read them! Keep up the good work!! :)

  7. I'm a mix. I give myself a rough outline, the big plot points, but I don't detail out the points between. Those I let just flow as I write. Which leads to some work sometimes to clean up earlier parts when I decide on a better path or mix up the mythology or landscape.

    Then I go anal on the plotter side when I revise.

  8. Great post, Julia! I'm like Stephanie where I outline the major plot points but I do take it a bit further by trying to come up with minor plots point in between. I also write out character outlines to help keep me on track. This allows me to have a clear picture in my mind of who I'm dealing with when I'm writing out scenes.

    Again, awesome post! Keep up the great work!

    BTW, you chose the perfect image for your post! Did you make that out yourself?

  9. Awww, thanks Jamie, Stephanie and Jack for your comments. Great to see how my fellow authors go about writing their books.

    Jack, nope I didn't make the plotter or pantser pic. Just found it online. haha I'm not that cool!