Sunday, 21 October 2012

Are You a Plotter, Pantser or Plantser?

Are you the type of writer who likes to have everything planned out in great detail before you set pen to paper and begin writing your novel or story? Do you create detailed character profiles and plot diagrams for every twist and turn well before you have composed the first sentence? Do you already know in advance what your themes are and how your characters will develop over the course of the book? If you answered yes to these questions then you, my friend, are a planner.

On the other hand if you start writing with no clear idea of where your story is going, who your characters are or even what the story it is about then you fall into the category of pantser. You thrive on uncertainty and see writing as a journey which is as exciting for you as it is for the reader. You delight in coming up with connections and ideas on the run and you give your unconscious a lot of leeway to create.
These are the two extremes of the writing world, but my guess is that most writers probably fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, making them plantsers. I'm definitely in the plantser category because I begin with a basic outline for each chapter and an overall idea I want to express, but I don't fill in the details till I actually start writing. Once I begin writing the story and characters change a great deal from my original plan. I believe in giving the unconscious room to play and for me the most satisfying part of writing is seeing connections I hadn't even realised were there, and the plot twists I didn't consider when planning, but which suddenly seem ideal. In a sense, writing is a lot like reading, and if your story doesn't entertain and thrill you as you're composing it, then chances are it won't thrill anyone else either.

I love the term plantser because it really captures the organic process of writing. Just like a plant a story has to begin with a seed planted in the fertile soil of the imagination, and as it begins to grow the roots develop to hold the story together and keep it anchored. Above the soil is the story itself, growing and blossoming in beautiful and often unexpected ways.

Everyone has their own approach to their craft and you have to go with what works for you, but I believe plantsers manage to avoid the pitfalls that come with being a planner or a panser. Planners risk overthinking things and losing spontaneity. Pantsers on the other hand often find that they start out with great enthusiasm but then come to a grinding halt because they don't know how to finish the story. Their characters can come across as superficial because they haven't spent enough time thinking about the motivations and how they will develop. I know this from experience because I have taken a pantser approach with my current WIP and I've found it far more difficult than my previous books. It's not approach I'll be taking again in a hurry.

I've discovered I'm a plantser through and through because this approach combines the best of both worlds. It provides a solid grounding to build on while also allowing the imagination to run free and do its magic. Who could ask for more than this?

What type of writer are you?


  1. I don't think I'm a plantser, exactly because I can't outline a story and start writing it. When I do plan, I end up writing the story in my head, and that maybe just me, but I don't like writing down a story that I have clearly created in my head. I say I'm more of a panster, but I do know my characters and how I want the story to go, fairly well. Anyways, thanks for sharing this!

    Love and Hugs

  2. Hi Clara, I'm a bit the same if I write a story in my head because then I get bored once it's all worked out and I need to change it. It does help to have some idea of where it's going though. Sounds like you've found the approach that works for you. Happy writing!