Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Plotter or Pantser

The famous classification. Are you a plotter or a pantser? (I always found it similar to the genes vs. environment debate in science) One isn’t more correct than the other. People have to take a stance when they talk about this classification; whether they believe themselves to be one or the other is a different story. It’s hard to solely be one thing: plotter or pantser. 

But what are these terms exactly? In short, they describe the way you write. Plotters write their novel with a plan. This means you could have the major beats of your story planned out or you could have a detailed, precise outline of everything that’s going to occur in the book. You could have it on your computer screen as you type away or you could have it printed out so you can cross points off once they’re completed. Plotters more or less know what’s going to occur in their books. 

On the other hand, there are pantsers. Pantsers “fly by the seats of their pants”. This means said pantser plops her butt in a chair and writes as fast as she can that particular writing session. There’s no plan or outline. Pantsers are usually people that like the freedom of not knowing what’s going to happen next. They let the story take the controls and just write as the events come to them. If you ask pantsers, what’s going to happen at the climax of their story, most cases they’ll shrug because they honestly don’t have a clue.

As for me, I’m not either. Well I thought I was a pantser until I really thought about my writing process. I definitely don’t sit down and write out an outline before I start a new idea. The first time around, I write all of my books without any idea where I’m going. That’s why I call them Draft Naught or Draft Zero. I literally do not know what’s going to happen in the overall plot except for maybe a chapter or two in advance. 

This is also the reason why I can’t completely classify myself as a pantser because I do plan a little. Just a tiny bit. Because there are scenes, ideas, characters, etc. that convinced me to start writing. So when I start writing, I have an idea or premise or a character along with a couple of “darling” scenes that I need to get to. In that way I do know what’s going to happen, but how I get there? Well I might as well be wearing a blindfold. 

So I’m definitely not a plotter. I’ve tried sitting down and writing outlines, but those are projects I’ve abandoned and most likely won’t get back to (even though I tell myself the exact opposite). But I’m also not a pantser because I usually have some idea of what’s going to occur. Sometimes my brains works too fast for my fingers and creates scenes when I know I can’t write any more. Then I put those scenes on a sticky note for the next day. This is arguably a small plan of attack. 

But does it really matter whether you’re plotter or pantser? No matter what you classify yourself as, you still finish the book, right? You still write as much as you possibly can. So if you don’t know what camp you fall into, don’t worry. It’s really hard to be in either classification and not toe over the line. If writers didn’t do that, we wouldn’t have the books we have today. 

Are you a plotter or pantser? Or a mix of both? Comment below! 

*Fun fact: Scrivener kept auto correcting pantsers into panthers, so if I missed one in this post, I apologize, but it should make for a very amusing sentence. 

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