RTW: Plotter or pantser?

Today the lovelies at YA Highway are asking: Do you like to make a detailed plan before you start a project? Or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants and make it up as you go along?

I like to think I fall somewhere in the middle. I completely pantsed the heck out of my first draft of Four Stones, and I know I’ve talked before about how that wound up being a disaster of epic proportions. Like “nothing short of a brand new Word document will save this” proportions. I have nightmares involving that terrible first draft winding up on the internet and everyone thinking I’m the worst writer since, well, this guy.


I vowed that never again would I pants my way through a novel. But at the same time, I’m not one of those writers (who I admire but secretly hate) who can sit down and create a detailed, chapter-by-chapter outline of exactly how the book is going to go. It would be so nice during those middle-of-the-book lulls to have an outline to fall back on, but I just can’t do it. I’ve tried. Not in the blood.

So instead I opt for the happy medium. I have a very loose outline that roadmaps by beginning point, middle point and end point, I always know the main conflict, and I usually have a few subplots in mind, but other than that, the road is wide open. If I want to get from Atlanta to New York City by way of Indianapolis, then that’s okay. I might sit back during revision and scream “Why the eff did I go to Indianapolis? That’s so out of the way!” or I might say “Wow, Indianapolis was really cool. I met a lot of awesome people there.” You never know, and that’s half the fun. Structured freedom, that’s my style.

What about you? Plotter or pantser?


Posted in RTW, Writing Tagged

14 Responses

  1. Holly says:

    Yeah, that’s pretty much how I’ve written all of my past stuff. Until I went crazy in Excel. lol I think it’ll always vary, not only by person, but by project as well. πŸ˜‰

  2. Rima says:

    Where did you get that picture of me???

    Well, I wrote my first novel as an online serial, and my first draft WAS on the Internet for all to read. Thanks to the Writing Gods, it worked out, because I was totally pantsing my way through that one. For my current WIP, I’m doing something more or less in between; I have a general outline and the major plot points, but I’m pansting the rest.

  3. I, like you, secretly envy plotters. I’m trying to do it for my next project and it’s SO HARD. I guess I have a hard time deciding on what will happen before I even know my characters. I do a sort of in-between thing, too. I know the beginning, end, and several scenes along the way, but I don’t know how I’m getting from point to point or when each will happen. And all are subject to change.

  4. My first draft of Falling to Normal was 100% pantsed. It was way too long and all over the place. Now I’m totally a fan of knowing where I’m going before I get there.

  5. Karen Strong says:

    Plot chick checking in. πŸ™‚

    I admire pantsers. I don’t see how it’s done. But I’m logical by nature and I need to know where I’m going.

    However, I’m flexible enough to stray from my detailed outline as well. Always stay open to new developments. They are usually much better than the original.

  6. I’m a little of both also. I know where I need to go, but my characters have a lot of say in how we all get there.

  7. I;m the same as you!! I make a vague outline and make notes as I go…as I write, I think of things I want to do later on and make a note. If I write a scene, and know right away it’s not complete, but i really don’t have the energy to flesh it out that second, I will leave myself a comment in the margin to elaborate at a later time.

    this time around though, soemthing i am putting a lot of thought into as I write is the business end. I am only 5-6 chapters in, but I am already working on a query blurb. And I haven;t started it yet, but my last book, I wrote a chapter by chapter synopsis as I wrote the book. made it much easier in the end…and i could just read through my synopsis any time I wanted to see if the story was going where it needed to or not.

  8. spbowers says:

    I think it depends a little on the project but mostly I’m a pantster. A chunky pants writer as it were since I write in chunks instead of linearly. Though I am learning the benefits of a little prior thinking.

  9. Miss Cole says:

    I’m a pantser from start to finish. I keep notes, but other than knowing a scene here or there, I pretty much make it up as I go along. I find it quite exciting, although there are times when I wish I could create a poster-sized plan and hang it from a wall because it would look so *cool*.

  10. I think I’ve met more hybrids of pantsers and plotters than I have one or the other. I loosely outline the first draft, and then go into detail for the second draft. Flat out pantsing would get me no where.

  11. I love hearing this from so many people – I’m the same way, so it’s comforting. Great post!

  12. Kaitlin says:

    I’m glad you found what works for you! I, too, completely pantsed earlier novel attempts and the results were not good.

  13. Pam Harris says:

    I’m definitely like you–I fall in the middle. I like having some kind of idea where I’m heading, but I also like having my characters lead me. πŸ™‚

  14. Kate says:

    Andother one in the middle here. I like to know where I’m going but I love the little surprises that happen along the way.

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