Pantser vs Plotter

Now I know many of you read that title and immediately assumed I was talking Writer Greek. Then there are my fellow authors who read it and immediately groaned. Yeah, I know, I know, here we go again.

For those who don’t know, this is how two completely different approaches to writing are referenced. I’ll start to explain and you’ll naturally fill in the blanks having your own “Ah-ha” moment. We’ll start on the obvious side.

Plotters plot out every detail of a story, novella, book, whatever, before ever actually putting pen to paper, so to speak. (Gross exaggeration.) They need to know every minutia of their creation in order to compile it altogether in one glorious bundle. Confession: I wish I could plot like that. Have poster boards and note cards filled with details that I can rearrange at will. Which leads me to….what the hell is a pantser?

A pantser quite literally writes by the seat of their pants. They sit down with a vague concept or intriguing scene and just go with it. For those of you still guessing, that’s me. Probably the only thing in my life that I just roll with, everything else I keep I white-knuckle grip on like it will actually give me any modicum of control. (Insert eye roll) But seriously, I have written an entire 600 page manuscript (paperback length), all based on a handful of scenes in the middle.

Truthfully, I might be a little of both (with a decided lean towards pantsing). Unlike a true pantser though, I do want and need to know where my story is going; otherwise, I ramble. (Sound familiar?) Any way, I digress.

Like many writers (pantsers and plotters alike) I see my stories as if they were movies. When I develop a scene, I quite literally play it out in my head. The actors have their scripts, the scene is set, and Action! Mid way through, “No, no, no. Change X, N, and E and run it again.” This is a process that runs over and over again until I land on what I believe is the perfect blend of everything. It’s not easy, it’s a bit maddening, and yes, runs the risk of losing the most beautifully crafted scripts/dialogues. Still, it works.

Everyone has their own way. Whether it’s purist plotter or hybrid daydreaming-pantser like myself, you find what works for you. At any rate, I find myself repeatedly consumed by my stories. And my favorite part of this total obsession? When my characters surprise me. Which they totally do, all of the time. The little buggers go off script and I’m left reeling wondering “What just happened?” Answer: Run it again 😉

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