Tag Archives: plotters

Pantsers vs Plotters

We often hear that writers fall into one of two camps: pantsers or plotters.  In truth, most of us straddle those two camps with a toe and maybe an arm in one and most of our body in the other.  I am one of those ridiculously methodical people who have a spreadsheet or a list for everything.  My writing desk needs to be spotless and organised.  I have multiple spreadsheets tracking everything from submissions to budgets to daily word counts.  Wouldn’t you expect me to be a plotter?

Actually, I’m a pantser – I write by the seat of my pants, without an outline, figuring it out as I go.  I usually start with a particular setting I want to explore and as I get to know the characters who inhabit that setting, the story unfolds.  But I’d love to be a plotter.  The methodical part of my brain adores the idea of a neatly-constructed outline, a manuscript mapped out scene by scene, writing with a definite end in mind.

I’ve tried to be a plotter.  I really have.  Before I started writing my previous manuscript, I wrote a detailed outline.  I knew exactly where the manuscript was heading and what would happen in every chapter.  I lasted two scenes and then deviated irretrievably from the outline.  Perhaps I could have forced the story to follow the path I had originally chosen, but the way it went instead felt more natural and the outline was abandoned.

Yet I still longed to be a plotter.  So this time I’m trying something different.  I have a very brief outline written on index cards – lovely big, pink ones.  I adore index cards and the methodical part of my brain is thrilled at having a stash of those pink cards spread out around me as I write.  It makes me feel like a “proper” writer.

The index card method is working well.  Because I can change the order of the cards, I’m finding it easier to insert additional scenes or move them to a more appropriate place as the story changes.  The story is coming out more easily because I do have some sort of plan in mind, however brief.  As I get to know my characters and understand what drives them, the story I had intended naturally changes.  With my new index card system, I can shuffle around a few cards, add others in, remove the ones I no longer need, and hey presto, I still have an outline of sorts and the yet the story can follow its own course.

I’m not saying I’m a reformed pantser, not by a long shot.  By I have discovered that pantsers and plotters are perhaps not as mutually exclusive as I once thought.

How about you?  Are you a pantser or a plotter?  And which would you prefer to be?