When I started National Novel Writing Month, there wasn’t much I understood about my writing process. It took me years to understand there are various types of authors out there, but most can categorize themselves as a pantser or a plotter. What is the difference? What do these words even mean? What am I? I’m going to answer these questions today!
Panters? Plotter? Huh?
Let’s begin with a basic definition of these two words. I’ve talked the concept of “flying by the seat of my pants” before. This is the origin of the word ‘pantser’ because that’s how they work through their story. They allow the story to go where it wants. There is little control over the plot, the characters, and the way the story ends. A Plotter is the opposite. They have a lot of control over their plot and characters. They tend to outline, in different degree of detail, and may even plan out their dialogue before they write. It all comes down to how much control you want over the story and neither is wrong.
What Am I?
For years I’ve been a Panster. I let the story go where it needed, only worrying about my word count. Is this character distracted by something? Then go write it! Don’t know who killed someone? Then write until you figure it out. It worked when I was just writing to write. Then I wrote Missing Auggie and my process had to change. I’ve talked about how difficult I found it to move forward with Missing Auggie. I was full of anxiety about it between revealing the truth too early, this being my original work, or the story simply being dumb. I realized I could manage that better with an outline. Since this was my first real outline, it went through MANY phases. Someday I will share my notebooks filled with different outlines. The breakthrough happened with the outline that detailed what happened every week that Auggie was missing. Then, when I had to frame the story and pick flashbacks, I did it all over again to put everything in the right place. Without this last outline, I would still be stuck in the middle of the book.
Turning into a Plotter
After I did this, I looked at the projects coming up next. I thought I had a ton of time to finesse this system, but my publishing timeline changed when I made Missing Auggie book three (instead of four). I cut out one entire book that had given me some buffer to flesh out ideas in my head. What this means is that I’m less prepared than expected for Woodhouse Yarn and Cafe. It’s even worse for Northanger Park (for 2021 release). I need a different system for writing and I tried outlining for the first time. The outlines aren’t detailed, but it gave me a chance to step book and look at the entire book, its themes, and its progress. I can still write like a Pantser, but I have a sense of what I need to make sure I write. In the end, I hope it has a positive impact on my writing, especially when I write my own, original stories!
What about you? Are you a plotter or pantser? Tell me in the comments!