I first encountered the words “plotter” and “pantser” when I did NaNoWriMo in November 2016. I might have been stuck in a cave or something, I don’t know. Anyway, I thought right away that I was a pantser. After all, when I start a new project, I know overall what the story is gonna be about but I don’t outline much, even if I should.
But is there really such a thing as being either a plotter or a pantser? I think you can be a little bit of both, or something else entirely.
A plotter is a type of writers who will outline the project entirely before starting writing it. The writer knows exactly what is going to happen from the first to the last chapter. Of course, he can let some freedom during the writing process, but overall everything has been planned ahead. It’s the kind of writers who works with a bible, with lots of characters sheets and an even bigger world building document (I highly recommend doing this if you’re writing fantasy).
However, if you’re like me and can’t wait to start writing, you’re certainly a pantser. No outline, no document, no sheets. Only the imagination and you, working hands in hands on your story, day after day. You might have a notebook by your side to write down some of your ideas, but it’s everything you need.
Why you shouldn’t choose either of them
I am sure that you chose your camp by now. So: are you a plotter or a pantser?
I used to think I was a total pantser. I would rush into my project and just write all I would think about. But I realised it is very hard to edit that kind of work, because there are so many things to fix afterwards. In my current work-in-progress for example, I have to rewrite the story completely because I thought it would be best for my characters to be older, and to touch a different audience than I initially thought.
Am I a plotter then? I don’t think I am. There is still a bit of freedom in my writing, and I don’t really like the idea of spending so much time outlining. I just draw a timeline where I note what event happens when in the story, it helps a lot. But usually I know the beginning and the end without really knowing what’s happening in the middle.
Victoria Schwab, the author of “Vicious” and the Shades of Magic series, talked about being a “connecting-the-dotster” in one of her videos. I would have agreed on that, because I love this author and because I felt I was actually this kind of writers. But why choosing if you’re entering one box or the other? You should just be writing.
Just do what works for you
You are your type of writers.
Because you have already worked on so many projects, you know exactly what work and don’t work for you. You keep detailed documents on your story and/or characters, or you don’t: who cares if not you? The most important thing isn’t that you fit in that particular box, but that your story will continue its life in your reader’s hands.
I learned a little about writing and editing during my writing career. I can give you some advice, but just do what work for you. This is what work for me:
- Drawing a timeline, so I know where to write that fighting scene.
- Keeping characters notes somewhere, not to lose them on the way.
- Writing down new ideas that I have while writing, to free my brain and think if they’re worth implementing later.
Now tell me…
What is working for you?
Feel free to tweet me @vdvestelle
Read more on the subject:
“Can you structure if you’re a Pantser?” by K.M. Weiland
“The Mirror Moment: A Method for both Plotter and Pantsers” by James Scott Bell
“The Pros and Cons of Plotters and Pantsers” by The Magic Violinist