Plotter vs. Pantser

When is a Plotter a Pantser?

I recently participated in a fun podcast where I debated the old writing argument of whether to plot out a novel in detail or whether or to simply dive in and wing it. I was arguing for the plotter side.  As a former pantser, I can attest to the joy of just flinging oneself into a project, but sooner or later there has to be an actual plot. In general, if you want to write a book, you’re not allowed to spend endless amounts of time hanging out with your imaginary friends and not have anything happen, or only a series of unconnected events.  If you do that, people call you crazy.  If you have a plot, they call you a writer.

But Pantsers Write Books Too!

But somehow pantsers do manage to get books written. Books in which events occur in a coherent manner even. So how do they do it? Well, eventually they find themselves a plot and the meet an editor.  I would argue that most pantser have internalized story structure to the point that they can move forward with a story and know generally what they want to have happen.  Sadness over here.  Shocking twist over there.  Smoochy faces at the end.  The specifics, they fill in as they go. And then an editor comes along and shakes out all the inconsistencies.

So which one is better?

One of the great things about being on a podcast is talking to writers that I wouldn’t ordinarily be able to spend an hour with.  It was lovely to hear some of the reasons for pantsing and I think it becomes quite obvious that all any writer is looking to do is make it easier to write. Some people have to lure their muse with wine and chocolate and some say welcome to my spreadsheet.  The plotters want to contain the chaos so that it doesn’t stress them out and the pantsers want to free themselves from the stress of checklists.  The answer is not which one is better but which one is better for you and even which one is better for your right now.  Finding the answer can mean the difference between proceeding with a project and getting stuck in the hell of writers block.

Listen / watch to the Plotter vs. Pantser Podcast at Hidden Gems.





Bethany Maines is the award-winning author of action-adventure and fantasy tales that focus on women who know when to apply lipstick and when to apply a foot to someone’s hind end. She participates in many activities including swearing, karate, art, and yelling at the news. She can usually be found chasing after her daughter, or glued to the computer working on her next novel (or screenplay). You can also catch up with her on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and BookBub.

5 replies
  1. Debra H. Goldstein
    Debra H. Goldstein says:

    Sounds like it was a fun podcast. I started as a true pantser, and in many ways still am, but somewhere along the way, an editor forced a little pre-planning. It never stays that way, but sometimes it is nice to have a roadmap.

  2. Gay Yellen
    Gay Yellen says:

    I know “Pantser” is the popular term for those of us who eschew outlining, but I prefer to call myself an Improviser. Back when I was a theater rat, improvisation was what we did when we had a character to play, but no script to go on. If you know your characters well enough, they’ll lead you in the right direction most of the time. It’s also comforting to know that many award-winning mystery writers work this way.

  3. Saralyn
    Saralyn says:

    I would venture to say there’s a bit of a pantser in every plotter, and a bit of a plotter in every pantser. You are right, Bethany. The main thing is telling the story in the best way.

Comments are closed.