In Life are You a Pantser or Plotter?

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Apr 21 2022

Writers often talk about whether they are pantsers or plotters. I’ve been recently thinking of this in terms of life and career. I wonder if there’s a correlation between the way an author lives their life and plans their career and the way they write their books.

While there is no exact way a pantser and plotter work there are overall definitions of each. Most of us will develop our own ways and strategies where our plotting might take a detour as we’re writing or our pantsing needs a little more defining before we get started.

Pantser

Panters writes by the seat of their pants. They have an idea of the story and characters of course, and might even write that idea down, but when they sit down to write the actual book they let the words flow and the story take shape in its own way.

Plotter

A plotter seemingly writes the book before they write the book. A plotter carefully outlines the characters, the scenes, and, well, the plot before they sit down to actually write.

Pantsing and Plotting in Life

In life I’m a pantser. I had an idea for what I wanted BookEnds to be, but it was the germ of an idea. There was no detailed plan for how it would play out in five years, ten years or, frankly, even two years. I had dreams of starting a book packager which I did. I never envisioned that two years later we would completely flip our business model to become a literary agency.

And once we were I would look around at other agencies and dream of having a children’s department, representing SFF (not me, but someone else) and growing beyond boutique to an agency that could represent all authors (or nearly all). But I didn’t plot that out. I had no idea that making those changes would also require a sub rights department, four assistants, a contracts department, a bookkeeper, or just a huge number of people to support this dream. This very pantsed dream.

It works for me. Pantsing is also the way I do vacations, weekends, and, well, pretty much anything in my life. I like to have a vision, a dream, and then I like to see day-to-day what that looks like. I like to let the characters take me on their journey.

There’s nothing wrong with pantsing or plotting. Both are great ways to write and to live. Where the mistake is made is when you define everything by the exact way you work. When the plot falls apart and you fail to change it because it doesn’t fit the plan you’re failing yourself and your book. When you’re pantsing and things go off course and you’re unwilling to take some time off to, well, plot it out a bit.

I am a pantser in life, but I also spend a fair amount of time plotting. I think about how these new ideas will impact everything and what changes I need to make before jumping in. That being said, I still have no idea what tomorrow is going to look like.

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