Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Plotser Vs. Panster: Why I'm changing my style

A major topic among writers is how we plan and write our stories. Are you a plotster or a panster? This means do you plot out your story in great details prior to writing or do you, as the term implies, fly by the seat of your pants and just let the story come to you as you write.

How do I write? With my YA fantasy that I’m wrapping up, I was a big panster. I had a very rough outline that identified the main story arc but I had no plan on how the story was going from point A to B. The flaw I found it this writing style is that the revision proves has taken so long. I’m not talking revising grammar; I’m referring to revising plot structure and character arcs. Because I wrote with the flow, the story failed to flow naturally.

Now as I prepare to embark on my next fictional project, a middle grade dystopian I am handling things differently. I have outlined the story in great detail. I have left no room for mystery, I know exactly where the plot and character arcs are going. The benefit of this level of planning is that I believe I will be able to write the story quicker and more efficiently. I’m also planning to work on some character interviews prior to writing. This means that I will literally where my reporter hat and interview the main characters so that I can better understand their goals, motives and personality.

Though I enjoyed the process of just letting my creative juices flow with the panster style that I used to write my first fictional manuscript, I plan to not write this way again. Writing styles vary by writer. What works for me, may not work for you. How do you write? Are you a panster or a plotster? How do you prepare for the next project?


My non-fiction, “Caring for Your Special Needs Dog” is out by Who Dares Wins Publishing. It is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. A percentage of the profits go to The Texas A&M Foundation to the benefit of the Neurology Section, Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinarian Medicine.

I’ve talked about the amazing writing community before. Writers are fortunate to have so many resources and groups easy to find. If you haven’t, join the revolution on Twitter at #MyWANA. This is a group of writers helping each other. It was started by social media expert, Kristen Lamb. I’ve also recently found the YA Sisterhood on Facebook. This is another great resource for YA writers.


  1. I always think the black & white perspective of plotting vs. pantsing is insufficient. It's really more like a continuum, with the ends being those people who plan out every detail and those who stare at a blank screen and start banging keys. As for myself, I am more pantser than plotter, but I do plot.

    It's interesting that you are changing up your style a bit. I think it's good to tweak one's approach and find out what works. Who knows? I may end up with a wall-sized dry erase board and every plot point on a post-it within a short time.

  2. WOW talk about an about face! From slim overview to interviewing characters! I really believe we need to explore what works for us (I've spent years figuring it out for myself) but I honestly believe that an outline frees you from so many fears and kills writer's block dead in its tracks.

    Good for you!

  3. I love to write but hate revising. With my latest manuscript the revision stage has taken so long because I've been fixing plot holes and arcs. I'm hoping that by doing some more plotting I will be able to trim some of the revision passes that I've been through.

  4. After I wrote my first book, I decided I was going to try pantsing because the book turned out boring and forced. I wrote my second book flying by the seat of my pants. The result was four loosely related vignettes starring the same characters. For my third book..well, let's just say I've flopped back and forth for seven books.

    What I've learned about strict plotting is that my plots are a lot more exciting when I fly by the seat of my pants. However, some plotting has to take place, or I end up with four loosely related vignettes starring the same characters.

    I studied Michael Hague's turning points and liked his ideas. On the last book I wrote, I plotted out my turning points. Then, because I was writing a mystery, I figured out the pieces my protagonist needed to find to solve the mystery. I fit those two lists together and came up with what I wrote.

    I'm not saying my method is perfect. Before I ever started tweaking at the grammar, prose, etc., I rewrote this book twice. Perhaps I'm still a work in progress as an author? :D