“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
If you’re a writer, do you fall into the Pantser or the Plotter camp?
Many of us are combinations of the two, but lately, I’m wishing I was more of a Plotter. And I’m kicking myself for spending FAR too much time writing out of the foxhole I unwittingly dug so long ago.
A Pantser is someone who writes “by the seat of their pants.” They believe characters develop lives of their own and want to tell their own stories. They feel that not knowing what lies ahead is exciting and provides a better story, for them and their readers. When they back themselves into a corner, they often abandon the project entirely rather than claw their way out.
A Plotter, on the other hand, is an outliner. Someone who starts with Point A, proceeds to Point B, then C, then logically to a conclusion. They derive comfort from knowing beginning, middle, and end — usually before they embark on their writing journey. They keep Post-It notes or detailed charts with character and setting descriptions, timelines, and so forth. Their ends are tied up in nice bows; the act of writing comes easier because it has structure.
Each writing style has pros and cons. The work of Pantsers flows. It can be a heady experience for a writer to feel that his Muse is sitting on his shoulder, helping his story “write itself.” But the work of Plotters is accurate, detailed, complete. Plot holes are nonexistent; characters are flushed out, and the conclusion is reasonable.
I have Pantser tendencies. They served me well as a journalist. I get an idea and RUN with it, and I’ve hated outlines since elementary school. Being a Pantser novelist though means I spend a lot of time rewriting. I get to the “murky middle,” find that things don’t line up right, and march back to the beginning. This makes my beginnings strong (something editors love), but unless the rest makes sense to me, it’s not finished.
Regardless of how much I want to type “The End”!
I’m told we Pantsers eventually recognize our need for an outline, though often not until we’re 30,000 words in and toying with moving on to something else — like maybe telemarketing or folding burritos?!
There are lots of reasons for outlining, chief of which is remaining focused on the task at hand.
So which camp do you fall into??