Pantser, plotter, plotser or panter?

I am currently in the editing phase for my novel and I am strongly considering the need to change from a pantser to a plotter. My work is all over the place, there are plot holes and repeated prose, loose ends and untidy beginnings.

In case you’ve never heard of the terms before, and google’s temporarily broken, here’s my dictionary throw in for the terms ‘pantser’ and ‘plotter’

Plotter: pretty much Hermione Granger but as a writer. Meticulously plots and outlines story from beginning to end, may be a perfectionist in real life or a virgo   #potterlife

Pantser: crazy, hermit like creatures. Writes with no knowledge of future events. Ends up with novels that read like Dr Who’s personal diary  #don’tstopbelievin

Pantsers usually never sit down to write a story with a plot in mind. Most of their stories begin as a pivotal or striking scene in their mind that slowly evolves on its own. They usually jump from scene to scene and never have chapters until much later on. While it’s true that they eventually develop the general gist of where the story is going (we hope), some pantsers never even write down an actual plot outline – it all lives in their head.

There are many downsides to being a pantser – often stories can go in all kinds of convoluted and weird directions when you don’t have an outline, and when the pieces finally do fit together like a jigsaw, you have those wonderful ‘eureka!’ moments where you realise one character had been the other character’s father all along (apparently Darth Dader wasn’t always Luke’s father). Unsurprisingly, the rules are thrown out the window when you go on a mad pantser spree, which can be for the better – or worse.

I will only write briefly on plotters, for I have no understanding or inkling of the inner workings of such enigmatic writing-conundrums. From what I have gleaned from various internet sources, some plotters will spend months or even years outlining and formulating a perfectly structured story before sitting down for a few weeks and fleshing the whole thing out. Up until recently, I was blithely unaware that there were such a thing as the three-act structure.

No matter how your stories come to be, perhaps the best thing to do is write in a way that feels most natural and effortless to you. Some people love plotting to the last detail, some love having a good smash on the keyboard to see what appears, other incredibly rare specimens are plotsers – a good mix of the two (panters sounds a little odd).

Plotsers/panters are usually composed of two groups: those that start off plotting expediently before finding their creative legs, or those that start off on a wild pantser-like tangent before using superhuman strength to reign themselves in to create a wonderful, brain-tingling three-act outline.

Perhaps pantsers should attempt to slowly introduce more plotter like behaviours when they write. There’s nothing worse than getting writer’s block and having no outline to fall back on or getting stuck on a plot point with absolutely nothing to refer to. In this respect, plotters are surely better equipped to handle any mischievous characters or runaway plot details.

But as I like to say, write whatever (or however) the hell you want. If it’s a complete mess and no one wants to buy or publish it, have a re-write or get started on your next masterpiece. Whatever you do, don’t ever stop writing!

To all pantsers, plotters, plotsers or panters out there, happy writing!! I myself will continue plodding along while I patch up all the plot holes the pantser-life has gifted me.

6 thoughts on “Pantser, plotter, plotser or panter?

  1. I’m more of a pantser than a plotter. It’s all well and good to plot, but if you’re not in the “groove” then you can’t write. I pants it for as much as I can, then I’ll go back and fill in the gaps and think about it all a bit more. What’s missing? What can I take out? All that stuff. Sometimes you just have to strike while the iron’s hot – in this case if the words are flowing, go with it.

    Liked by 1 person

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