Monday, October 4, 2010

Plotter meets Pantser

We all know the drill, someone yells "Plotter versus Pantser, fight!" and people pick sides while many scratch their heads and say "but I do both..."

This picture has nothing to do with the post
but I thought you'd like it.
Few things in life are cut and dry. The battle lines between someone who plots out their story before writing a sentence and those who write by the seat of their pants (watching as a plot magically takes shape in the mess) are not always clear.

You hear people dismiss one or the other: "Oh, pantsers always have leaky plots" or "Plotters overthink and their writing is stiff." blah blah blah. But I say use what works.

Within my wonderful critique group, The Illiterati, the gamut is run. From our Pantser extraordinaire Mercedes M. Yardley to Mr. Plotter himself Ryan Bridger.
However, since we joined forces a few years back during the great wombat confluence, we've each learned (stolen) techniques and methods from one another.

I caught Mercedes plotting recently. Likewise Ryan decided to write a novel by the seat of his pants, just to try it.

I say: CHARGE! Because if there's one thing that is true about writing, you've got to try out different things to keep the creative mojo flowing.

Are you a pantser who keeps getting stuck a third of the way into your novel? Try plotting.
Are you a plotter who loses all your motivation to write what you just plotted out? Try setting forth a few "pole position" scenes and then write by the seat of your pants.

As for me, I tend to write by the seat of my pants once I have a vision of "the big climax". Usually about 30k words in I find that I need to plot out some elements, but I always have that "big climax" firmly stuck in my head as the destination.

But I certainly am not opposed to trying out different methods.

What about you cats? Where do you fall on the sliding scale of Pantser Plotter?


  1. Oh, Mercedes and her damnable pantsing plot twists. 'Course, since I'm pantsing the project along with her, we're just seeing where it goes. Which is fun.

    In my other projects, I'm a mix of both. I usually have five or six scenes sketched out in advance of where I am in any given story, so I know where I'm going most times. It's worked so far, I think.

  2. Simon, I call those "marker scenes" -- the ones you know MUST happen, whether you just feel it or have some inkling of the plot arc. A few of these key scenes and you can get pretty far pantsing.

    add to that knowing how the whole thing ends and, well...

    That's as much of a plot as some people need. :)

    by the by, Stilettos & Shirley Temples is quite the project. hats off to you, sir.

  3. Ok first of all, I love this blog and your writing style. Giggling out loud as I read is a rare treat and I thank you for that.

    As to the content of the post... I am both Pantser and Plotter when the mood strikes. I'll lose interest in a story that I've figured out all the way to the end. Or I will get totally lost in a story and have no clue how to get to the plot.

    Writers should be a little bit of both. My current WIP is a combo. I know the plot (ish) but I don't really know how they're all going to get there. It's like a little adventure in my brain haha.

    Again, thanks for the treat that is your blog. You now have a loyal follower :)

  4. Asheyna: Aww shucks. I'm all stumpified.

    The brain is a great place for adventures. Zero chance of getting injured or arrested.