Becoming Both a Pantser and a Plotter

Authors usually identify their writing style in two ways. They are either pantsers or plotters.

Pantsers write from the seat of their pants. From the start, they don’t have an outline that maps out the entire course of the book. Their writing goes where the story takes them.

Plotters take their idea and create a detailed plot outline before they even begin writing. From the first page, they know how the last page will play out.

There is no right way to write a book. An author’s process is their process. However, as your career takes shape you’re going to discover that it’s not possible to be either a pantser or a plotter. You will need to learn to be both.

The Pantser

At some point in your career your publisher is going to ask for a synopsis or outline of your next book. Either they’ll want to get started on a new contract, or they’ll need to get the team started on the cover and copy for that book.

At this point it won’t be enough to have a vague idea. You’ll need to plot something to pass along. Cover art and cover copy can’t be created without a vision, even by the best artists.

Plotting, while not completely set in stone, is also helpful to your editor. It’s certainly easier for everyone to rethink a story before it’s been written than it is after completion.

The Plotter

A plotter is always prepared for the next thing because a plotter is always prepared. However, a plotter who holds too tightly to an outline restricts themselves and their story.

To some degree, a plotter needs to be prepared to pants because in writing, as in life, the best laid plans….

However you write, whatever kind of writer you are, learning to embrace other styles and formulas helps you grow as a writer and succeed in a bigger way.

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5 comments

  1. It’s taken me many years to figure out that I’m an inbetweener. If I totally pants, I end up with a mess. If I totally plot, I end up reworking every point because I discover things in writing that throws off my plan. Such a hard thing growing up as a writer! Thanks!

  2. I usually have some idea of where a story or series is going to go. The problem for me is that I shy away from doing anything I’ve seen done before, so I tend to change the meaning of the ending by the time I get there. Sometimes I’ll have an idea at 3 in the morning that will completely change a book, and then another in chapter 10 that turns what’s already upside-down inside-out as well.

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