Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Plotter or Pantser

People often ask how writers come up with their stories. Most writers fall into one of two categories: Plotters or Pantsers. (Though many writers are combinations of both.)  A plotter is someone who sits down and writes out the plot of a novel before they begin writing. Some writers plot everything—every plot twist, every scene.  Other writers are “pantsers” because they write from the seat of their pants with almost no idea of what’s going to happen.

I’m a pantser. I sit down to write the story and have no idea where it’s going. I rely on my characters to tell the story to me. In that way, my writing the novel isn’t that much different than the way a reader experiences it when he or she reads it.

For me, “the unknown” is the scary-thrilling rush that comes as I write. It’s kind of like being on a rollercoaster while wearing a blindfold.

For example, I’m working on a sequel to Screwing Up Time—I’m about a quarter of the way into the story, and I ran into a conundrum. Kate, Brian, and Granddad are all in different places. Eventually, they need to get to Mark and Miranda who are in trouble and need all the help they can get.

I knew how Granddad would get there. But I had no idea how Kate would get there or what her role would be in the action. Then, the answer came to me. Kate would act according to her personality, and she’s not one to sit back and wait for things to happen.

I’d love to tell you what Kate’s decided to do, but I don’t want to spoil any of the book. So you’ll just have to wait because I want you to experience the rush of discovering the story just like I do (although without all the nastiness of editing and proofreading—the real downside of being an author).


  1. I'm amazed at how you write. I can't do that. I have to plan every detail before i write it. It can be hard because although I think I always know where i'm going, my characters do have says along the way and sometimes they run away from home.

  2. Clarissa--And the way you write amazes me. How can you think of it all at one time? I wish I could--I'd be able to write so much faster.

  3. Being on a rollercoaster while wearing a blinfold! LOVE IT. Pantsers amaze me. I'm a plotter all the way, and it takes forever! At least it does to draft. Maybe there's less time spent revising, idk. I have to spend so much time before I even start, and even more time before I sit down to write every single scene. Hmmm. Maybe I should start to work toward some kind of middle ground between plotting and pantsing. Maybe that would solve everything!

  4. I'm a pantser that is becoming a plotter. I hate it! No, not really, but having to provide detailed chapter outlines to my agent when she submits a partial really takes the whole "plotter" to a different level. But I'm grinding through it, knowing that the story *doesn't* have to unfold exactly as I've laid down in the chap outline. Good to meet you and I LOVE the cover for Screwing Up Time!

  5. I'm a pantser for sure, but have become a plotter because of having to provide detailed chap outlines to my agent when she submits a partial. It's hard for me to finish the project because I feel like I've already written it! But I'm grinding away, knowing that the story doesn't have to enfold exactly as the outline. Great to meet you and I LOVE the cover of Screwing Up Time!