Saturday, November 11, 2006

Saturday Surprise-Plotters Vs. Pantsers

This Saturday, we have a chat about your writing style.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Personally, I'm a plotter from way back.
When I first started writing, the first thing I did was jot my first few chapters on paper.

Ah...the thrill! The joy! I was actually, physically writing!

However, I cottoned on pretty quick that by writing first and typing later, I'd be writing on average a book a year so ditched this method in favour of a trusty PC.

My paper and pen fetish has never left me and while I had no idea what I was writing with that first book (a Medical based on a physiotherapist, of course. Write what you know and all that...not!) I soon learned I could write much faster if I plotted a rough outline of my story before starting.

Suddenly, ideas were flowing faster than I could write down and when I got stuck, all I had to do was refer back to that treasured bit of paper and there it was, more inspiration!
For my first 4 books, I used elaborate character charts and art briefs, finding it comforting to write down every minute detail about my hero and heroine.

These days, I've changed.

While I still roughly plot the book by jotting down a few key points, character names, occupations, etc. in a 3 page synopsis, I've become more of a pantser.
(And yes, this is a gratuitious photo of a male model in pants!)

I find the combination works well, allowing me to delve deeper into the story by getting to know my characters as I write them. Of course, I always resort to my trusty pen and paper when I get stuck, which inevitably happens in the dreaded sagging middle.

So which are you? A plotter, a pantser or a combo like me?

Nicola's next release is INHERITED: BABY, a Harlequin Romance out in December.

To find out more about her plotted characters, check out her website and blog.


  1. Nic,

    This was a particularly interesting post for me. Like you I used to be a dedicated plotter, but times have changed. Now I find I start a story when I have a vivid first scene and usually leave it for a while to mature while I do something else (like finish the ms I'm SUPPOSED to be writing). In that time I get a good idea of the main characters, their back stories, motivations and so on. I can't write without some idea of where I'm headed but it's usually very, very rough. Most of the detail is revealed along the way.

    I was interested to see how you worked on your stories.


  2. To start with, I was a pantser. In my amateur days I didn't realise you could plot a story first, so I'd just write it. (Of course, i was only about 7 years old, so I didn't know any better!)
    But now, I think i'm a plotter. I can finish the books that I plot out first, not that I stick rigidly to that synopsis, and it often changes. And occasionally I'll get a flash of a new story and write the first chapter down quickly for storage later and let my subconscious work on it, before I plot from that initial situation.
    So does that make me a combo?

  3. Plotter. I have a 3-page syn (a bit longer than the one my ed gets) and I know what's going to happen - might ake a detour during the writing, but in general I know how things are going to happen. I know that pansters would scream in horror, saying they'd get bored: but if I don't have something written down to focus on, it becomes a mess - the middle sags, the pacing's wrong and the focus of the story's likely to move round to the secondary characters.

    Plotting + chocolate = this author is happy :o)

  4. I do both but probably fall on the pantsing side of a plotter.

    I do need to know what is happening, but have enough scope to change things if need be.

  5. I'm a total pantster. If I outline or sketch out too much, my mind thinks the story's already written and what's the point of doing it again?

    Though sometimes when a block hits, I really wish I had more of a road map where I was headed.

  6. I'm learning the hard way. I've always been a pantser and that's probably why I'm yet to finish a manuscript (my current w-i-p will be the only exception)!

    I can't wait to write The End on this one, because next time I'm going to plot in advance. I'm determined to become a plotter even if a flexible one - surely it's got to be an easier route than the one I'm struggling with now?!!

    Sue :-)

  7. I do pretty much exactly the same as you, Nicola, although to begin with I swung from one extreme to the other: first started with opening a new document and writing, which would fizzle out by the end of chapter one because of course I had no idea of my story or my characters! (*For shame!*) Then after that I plotted so much that I overdid it and the story became so constrained that it died again (albeit at chapter 5, this time).

    Jess x

  8. It depends on the book. I don't think I've ever "plotted" one really, but I have written some synopses which seem to carry me along if I forget the path. And that works on some books -- but on others it's useless.

    I think I just have learned to trust the book to do what it needs to get written without trying to get each of them to behave the same way. They're like my children -- no two are alike!!!

  9. Julie and I did a Q&A last month about this on eHQ. I think EVERYONE should try it both ways at least once. I've done every plotting method I've ever heard of. Of the two books I sold, one was a complete panster book, the other was First Draft in 30 Days, a rigid plotting method. So...panstering is more fun. Hence why this book and the one currently with my editor have been pansters. They've rejected a snowflake, outline, notecard, & Fast Draft. Am I blaming the method? You betcha! :p

  10. This is such a fascinating topic. I love hearing how other writers do it; looks like the plotters outweigh the pantsers so far?

  11. I dunno...I think I outweigh any of you ;p