When it comes to being a writer, you’re usually a “pantser” or a “plotter”.
Or you can throw your papers defiantly in the air and refuse both titles and be a “plantser”, which means you have the best and worst of both worlds. And you cry a lot. But don’t we ALL.
The whole pantsing vs plotting debate is usually conducted as a small war amongst writers. You either fervently hate the idea of being boxed in by an outline; you need freedom to let your characters roam and inspiration gnaw at your bones and guide your pen. Or you want organisation, outlines, firm goals, and books you can foreshadow and set up plot twists.
Both are valid. Both will, as we’ve already established, make you cry.
Yes. I’ve been pantsing.😑 (If you hear a dull thunking sound, oh nevermind, that’s just ME banging my head against the floor.) I thrive with outlines. I usually write ones that are 22,000 words long and basically a Draft Zero or a “script” where later I’ll come back and properly fill in the gaps. Outlining allows me to write fast, fierce, and free. 30K in a day? We gotcha. It’s a roadmap. It’s controlled. I don’t get writer’s block. I know what happens next (something that’s incredibly important to me).
“Ok c.g.,” you say, tossing a corn chip into your mouth, “you’ve made a pretty good case for your love of plotting. are you going to just reminisce pitifully or tell us why you and your outlines divorced?”
Oh mEGHUSGH I am going through a hard time with this break up, I swear.
And when you get stuck, my top advice is always: shake up what you’re doing. I couldn’t plot. I couldn’t move forward. I couldn’t see the story I needed to tell. So I decided to just force myself to write, to get back into it.
I still plot. The plotting is just 99% in my head and 1% on a sticky note that says “DO NOT FORGET THE KNIFE SCENE” which, ya know, in 3 weeks I will yell at myself for not being more specific about that. I imagine my scenes before I write them. I’m a plotter deep in my soul. But I’ve been pansting so so much of my books and it’s stressed me out SO SO MUCH…
…and I’ve also written one of my best works this year because of it.
You know what? My opinion is 😒 @ myself at this point.
However it leads me to analyse…
which is better? pantsing vs plotting
There’s never going to be a definitive answer for this, but I want to list the pros and cons I’ve experienced while doing both! And yes…these are pros and cons for me, just me. 🤗
- It was definitely helped shake me out of a funk where I “couldn’t write” unless I knew 100% of my story. And since my creativity had been misfiring…I just wasn’t starting at all.
- Look, you DO surprise yourself and it is quite exciting.
- It feels more relaxed in a way, because if you change something in the spare of the moment, you don’t destroy a 20,000-word outline you just spent a month writing.
- I’ve come up with some fiercely brilliant things that I had NOT planned until I let the characters dictate the story. I am proud okay. This rebel-plotter is proud.
- There are times when your character drops a “big plot twist reveal” and the secondary characters gasp! And you gasp! None of us KNEW. This is a surprise 🗣for us 🗣all 🗣. And while it makes for some dramatic twists, my main opinion is always: “What the actual frickity frack am I doing next.”
- Getting stuck. Having no idea what to do next. Panicking, just a little.
- When things aren’t well thought through, you can get to the middle of a manuscript and realise you need to rewrite the whole. freaking. thing.
- You just have no idea what is coming up. Could be death, marriage, taxes. I don’t even know. 😑
- Way way less writer’s block when drafting.
- You can write cleaner drafts because you don’t write yourself into black inescapable holes.
- FORESHADOWING!!! It’s much easier to pull off succinctly if you know 100% what is going to happen.
- For me, there’s always a calmness into delving into a draft you know how to end. You can organise your characters’ themes, motivations, and arcs brilliantly ahead of time.
- You can do those Walls of Crazy. Hush this is a Big Aesthetic pro.
- It’s easier to write a blurb or synopsis before hand.
- If you’re a traditionally published author, or working with an agent, it’s handy to pitch them a solid synopsis BEFORE you begin writing, therefore saving time in case they reject it.
- “Plotter” just sounds better than “pantser”. I mean bold of whoever invented that term to think we are wearing pants.
- For me? Absolute procrastination: if I can’t get the outline “right”, then I won’t write at all.
- It can be so galling to write a whole intense outline and then…divert from it and have it be a wasted wreck. It’s even worse than finding a very old, forgotten zucchini in the back of your fridge.
- So much “Pre-writing”, it feels like you’ll never start.
- I never felt boxed in by my outlines or left without “room for inspiration”, but lately I’d been getting better ideas while I wrote, instead of before I wrote. Again, so much wasted work for these intense outlines.
- I still got writer’s block so what then!!!!!! is the point of all things, Samwise!!!!!
- It started feeling like a chore. My heart is sore. I used to crave the feeling of plotting. I’d basically be bored of writing before I got to the actual writing part.
It’s hard to let yourself change methods when you write. It’s hard to feel brave enough to experiment.
I’m letting myself recover from a very deep depression spiral, which left me unable to write effectively for nearly 2 years. I’ve got a lot of stage-fright to unpack from being published (it is my dream!!! but also affected me in ways I didn’t anticipate!!!). Despite loving plotting and knowing it was MY method: my writing wasn’t working.
Pantsing isn’t a cure-all for me either. I just wrote 30K of a draft I need to now rewrite from scratch. And quite honestly, I still plot out every scene mentally and know where my characters are going for at least that chapter. I’m also generally working off old/discarded drafts. So I’m knitting together a thousand threads in my head, not starting each day with no idea what might happen on my keyboard.
(I know exactly what’s going to happen to my keyboard. BROWNIE CRUMBS AND TEARS.)
My ultimate and professional opinion on plotting vs pantsing is: they both suck.
And they both work. 😂I know which makes me calmer (plotting) and I know which has been working for me lately (pantsing) and I know which one I can’t spell (continually, this whole post, I’ve been typing it panster).
It’s possible writing is just annoying, fulfilling, frustrating, and incredibly rewarding. All of them. Why, world. I’m exhausted.
| what do you say? |
I’d love to know if you’re a plotter vs pantser? have you tried both? do you change your traditional routine if you get stuck?