Plotters vs. Pantsers

This week, I wanted to chat about something I recently came across in Save the Cat! Writes a Novel*­—the final book I’m going through before sending my manuscript back to the agent who requested it!

* (The “Save the Cat!” story philosophy comes from screenwriting and basically states to always have your hero do an act of kindness in the beginning of the story so we can fall in love with them right away!)

What I discovered while reading was the concept of “Plotters” vs. “Pantsers.”

Basically, they are two different types of writers. Here are the definitions the book gives:

Plotter: “those who plot out their novels before they begin”

Pantser: “those who just write by ‘the seat of their pants’ and figure it out as they go”

Reading that got me thinking… why am I such a “Pantser” when it comes to writing but basically plan my entire life out down to the minute?

Then it got me thinking more… wait, am I a “Plotter” too? I think I am…

Let me take you on my writing journey.

It started with writing stories about my classmates, then I graduated to ones about celebrities. At its very basic level, I was writing things I wanted to happen in my life. (In a way, I never stopped doing that… but that’s another story entirely.)

The main difference between back then and now is that back then, I was writing strictly for myself. I hand-wrote (yes, hand-wrote) a whole 4-inch binder of fan fiction for God sakes. It was my nightly routine, and it brought me a ton of happiness and some killer memories.

I never plotted anything out back then because there was no point. My stories were just that: mine. All I did was write. I let the pencil go wherever it wanted to. I’ve always considered myself lucky in that regard. Once I get going, I just go. I’m still that way, and I’m grateful for that.

I was very much in that “Pantser” mindset when I wrote the first draft of In the Sky years ago. Even though I may be un-doing a lot of what I did back then, I don’t regret writing it the way I did. Because in the end, the story wouldn’t be the same without that original “seat of my pants” draft.

Also, the draft was pretty well-plotted somehow, even while writing it as a “Pantser.” I think we all have the ability to do that. We are surrounded by stories our whole lives, so it makes sense that it just kind of comes out that way.

So, which of the two do I consider myself now?

Well, honestly? Both.

Different stories can lend themselves to different techniques. There isn’t one that’s inherently better than another. I think a healthy mix of both is perfect… or whichever one works for you.

Do you identify with either? Or struggle with one or the other?

Let me know! 🙂