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Are you a “Pantser” or are you a “Plotter?”

Whitney Eklof is currently an offline marketing specialist for Author Solutions, the world leader in supported self-publishing. She has a master’s degree in telecommunications from Indiana University, focusing specifically on storytelling across a range of mediums and story world creation.  While at IU, she also served as an associate instructor, educating students about writing, storytelling, and other telecommunications-related subjects, and worked as a writer for Indiana University’s Media Team. 

What kind of writer are you?

When we talk about our writing, we often refer to the genre we write or the themes we explore. However, we rarely talk about what kind of writer we are. In comes the concept of “Pantsers” and “Plotters.”

Like the name suggests, a Pantser is someone who writes by the seat of their pants. They go forth and let the words flow without planning or overarching structure already in place.

Then there are the Plotters. As you might guess, a Plotter is someone who sits down to write after carefully plotting the trajectory of their story. They have a structure in place and their writing is about getting from one piece of that structure to the next.

As writers, we generally fall in one of three categories: Pantser, Plotter, or the combination of the two known as the “Plantser.”

Now, it might be easy to categorize yourself as a Plantser off the bat because you feel you do a little of both, and that may be true. But take a moment to stop and really think about your writing process. You might just find that you tend to lean more heavily toward one side, or even that you’re a full-on Pantser or Plotter. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s simply your process. But, as with most things in life, there are pros and cons to each side.

Pantsers

Pros: Pantsers have more flexibility and freedom. They can go wherever the story takes them, which can be great for discovering new directions to take your book in. They’re not tied to a particular outline so they can scrap something that’s not working without having to redo the entire structure.

Cons: Of course, having no structure and no clear direction can lead to those dreaded cases of writer’s block, or even worse, it could lead to entire story derailment. Pantsers often run into more plot holes and logic problems because of the more freewheeling form.

Plotters

Pros: With a solid idea of where the book is going, Plotters can more easily get from Point A to Point B or chapter to chapter. The writing process also tends to move more quickly and smoothly when you know where you’re going.

Cons: Having everything planned out can be confining and Plotters may miss out on the opportunity to see where the story takes them. It also means that if they want to change something, they may have to rethink their entire structure.

Plantser-a combination

There are certainly writers who fall into each of these categories without ever experiencing any of the cons. They are the lucky few. For the rest of us, becoming a Plantser can bring us the best of both worlds. Having a light outline or at least a general idea of what you want to cover in each chapter is certainly helpful, but taking time to simply write and see where the story or characters lead is also equally as powerful.

Where to go from here?

Whichever category you fall into, consider changing up your process and try being a Pantser or Plotter for a day. Even if you consider yourself a little of both – a Plantser – you probably tend to use one process more than the other or may simply be in a place where you’ve become one more so than the other lately.

As writers, we all need to take time away from our work: time to re-energize, regroup, or just to relax away from writing. Be sure to also take some time to try out a different process.

If you’re more of a Pantser, sit down and outline your next chapter and see how the process can give you clearer direction. If you’re a Plotter, take one of the concepts you believe needs more development and just write; don’t plan, just go. When you mix things up, you’ll find that change often leads to increased creativity and helps refresh you and your spirit.

So whether you’re a Pantser, Plotter, or somewhere in-between, don’t be afraid to switch things up once in awhile and embrace the other side. After all, you know what they say … “The grass is always greener.”

Write on, fellow writers.

 


Writing Tip & Prompt: 8/30/2013

Writing Tip & PromptOn Fridays we like to share writing tips and tricks with our readers. We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Avoid Wordiness

To quote American writer William Strunk Jr., “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. Use only what is needed to relay your meaning.”

Writing Prompt – Characteristics of Place

Describe the characteristics and qualities of the place you are right now. What gives it life? Who is here and how do they contribute to the overall mood? Look for things that usually go unnoticed – how do they had to this motif?


Writing Tip & Prompt: 8/23/2013

Writing Tip & PromptOn Fridays we like to share writing tips and tricks with our readers. We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Leading the Reader

A writer who wants to lead an audience towards a conclusion must refrain from clipping on a leash and pulling too hard. Being human, the audience is likely to resist being told what to think unless they are already perfectly in tune with the writer’s thinking, and how often does that happen? Keep your reader in mind and understand that they are being told a new story, which opens up the possibility for varying interpretations.

Writing Prompt – Borrowing Ideas

Start your next writing session with a jump start. First, head over to your bookshelf or coffee table. Then, pick one of the books or magazines that you haven’t read in awhile. Look at the first sentence of the first article or chapter and start your own story or poem that begins with that sentence. You’ll be surprised how far someone else’s beginning can get you. And if you like what you’ve written down and want to use it in your book, don’t worry: the only thing you need to do is revise the first line!


Writing Tip & Prompt: 8/16/2013

Writing Tip & PromptOn Fridays we like to share writing tips and tricks with our readers. We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Read the Tips

Every Friday we put out a tip and prompt, read the writing tips and take what you will from them. Apply each tip to your own technique and writing style. You may toss some to the side because you already knew them, but others you should keep in a memory file to guide you through the whirlwind process of writing a book. Every little bit helps!

Writing Prompt – Dimensions

Often, writers use dimensional tools to engage the reader’s mind. Perhaps they write a movie about a book about a man making a movie about a book. Sometimes they write songs about stories about songs about people writing stories. While this type of writing can be elusive to your average reader, it can be very meaningful to those who latch on to the piece, and, in the very least, it can be a great exercise for writers. Think about the images we experience in our young minds when we notice the similarities between solar systems and molecules. Try to write the most confusing short story you have ever written and see what happens.


Writing Tip & Prompt: 8/9/2013

Writing Tip & PromptOn Fridays we like to share writing tips and tricks with our readers. We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Word Choice

When writing, try not to use the word “very.” If you are using “very,” the odds are that there is a better word for you to use. For example, “He was very mad,” could be written as, “He was angry.” By choosing a more descriptive word instead of “very___,” you are opening up your vocabulary and preventing yourself from using the same words to describe everything in your story.

Writing Prompt – Castles

Castles are intriguing buildings. They are great stone buildings that have been around for hundreds of years. Something about them is captivating, whether it is the architecture or the history that surrounds a particular castle. For your next writing session, write a short story that takes place in a castle. Will it be a tale from the past, or a modern day story? Where is your castle located, and what are the people like who live there? Use this writing prompt to write a descriptive short story. Focus on something that you’ve had a hard time describing well in your writing.


Writing Tip & Prompt: 8/2/2013

Writing Prompt - FriendshipOn Fridays we like to share writing tips and tricks with our readers. We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Check Your Style

Grammar rules in one style may be incorrect in another. In most popular writing styles for American English, a comma is placed after each item in a series:  “She picked daisies, lilies, and daffodils for her mother.” But in AP style, for example, commas are omitted before the last words in a simple series: “She picked daisies, lilies and daffodils for her mother.” Be sure to check the grammar rules for the style you are writing in to make sure that you are following your style’s rules.

Writing Prompt – Friendship

It is often said that our friends are the family we choose. We feel comfortable when we are with our friends, and we would do just about anything to cheer them up if they are having a bad day. Oftentimes, we know our friends just about as well as we know ourselves. Use one of your close friendships and a special memory as inspiration for a short story. Maybe it is that friend who has been there for you your entire life, or maybe it was a friend who came into your life unexpectedly. Either way, your friends provide you with great story material – use them to your advantage!


Writing Tip & Prompt: 7/26/2013

Writing Tip & PromptOn Fridays we like to share writing tips and trick with our readers. We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Participle Phrases

A participle phrase (a non-finite verb that can function as an adjective) that modifies a noun or pronoun must refer to the grammatical subject when placed at the beginning of a sentence. Make sure that you form sentences correctly depending on the meaning. Example: “Young and inexperienced, the job seemed simple to me.” Young and inexperienced refers to the subject of the sentence, “the job,” which is not what the writer intends. The sentence can be corrected like this: “Young and inexperienced, I thought the job was simple.”

Writing Prompt – Antiques

When looking for inspiration for a writing session, sometimes it helps to go somewhere and be inspired by what you see. A good place to look for inspiration is an antique shop. They have a wide variety of items, from different time periods and places. With so many antiques to choose from, there is no telling where your story will go. For this week’s prompt, go to your local antique store and look around until something sticks out at you. Once you find that thing, focus on it: What is its history? How did it come to be in your town? Who did it used to belong to? Use the inspiration you got from the antique to write a short story.


Writing Tip & Prompt: 7/19/2013

Writing Tip & PromptOn Fridays we like to share writing tips and trick with our readers. We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Never Give Up

The journey to becoming a published author is not an easy one and it is easy to get discouraged. While writing a book and getting it published is a long and hard journey, it is very rewarding in the end. Some days you might not be able to work on your book at all – that’s okay. Take a step back and write a short story about something completely different. This allows you to take a break while still writing. When having your manuscript reviewed, some may seem harsher than others. Use any critiques you receive to your advantage and keep pushing through. You’ve spent countless hours creating your work and you deserve to reach your goal of becoming a published author.

Writing Prompt – Dream Vacation

Summer is most often associated with relaxation and vacation. Many of us look forward to vacation in order to get a break from our everyday lives. In addition, writers look forward to vacation because they get the chance to be introduced to a new environment that could be a potential location in their next novel. What is your dream vacation? If you could go anywhere in the world for any amount of time, where would you go? Use this vacation spot as inspiration for a short story. Explain the location in detail. Try to make the reader feel as passionate about this vacation as you.


Writing Tip & Prompt: 7/12/2013

Writing Tip and PromptOn Fridays we like to share writing tips and tricks with our readers. We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Keep a Writing Calendar

On top of an active writing schedule, create a writing calendar. Note your writing goals and set realistic deadlines for yourself, such as “Chapter one completed by August 8,” or “Reread and edit chapter 2 by November 1.” This is meant to be a guide — a motivator — not a tool that adds stress. It’s between you and your writing. Keep it real and understand that dates may change but the writing will continue. Seeing your progression will give extra energy and excitement for your daily writing.   

Writing Prompt – Observe People

Take a field trip to your local coffee shop, park or library. Don’t forget to bring pen and paper, or your laptop.  Settle in at a table or bench and get ready to write.  At any of these places you are bound to see dozens of people, some you may know or recognize, and others you may have never seen before. Observe the visitors of your locale for a few minutes until you see someone who inspires you to create a story for them. What is their background – what brought them to your location that day?  Use your thoughts to write a short story on the person that piqued your interest for the day.


Writing Tip & Prompt: 6/28/2013

Writing Tip & PromptOn Fridays we like to share writing tips and tricks with our readers. We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Careful Revisions

The excitement of finishing your manuscript can lead to a hasty proofreading session. If you are the one editing your work, you need to give it time to breathe before editing. This means putting your work to the side for a few days so that you edit it with fresh eyes. Sometimes, after working on a manuscript for a period of time, your eyes can become blind to simple mistakes such as repeated words or the use of the wrong homophone. Having another writer, or even a friend, edit your work is always a good option to consider. They are looking at your manuscript with fresh eyes and are more likely to notice mistakes that your eyes might gloss over.

Writing Prompt – Everyone has a Story

Underneath even an uneventful life are details that strike the core of humanity —layers of lessons unearthed and shared from people to people. Have you written your story? Still think there isn’t a story to be told? Okay, come up with 10 good reasons you should write your life’s story, and 10 good reasons why you shouldn’t. You just might discover that you have more to reasons you should then you first thought. Would you make your life story a memoir, or a fiction novel based on your life?


Writing Tip & Prompt: 6/21/2013

Writing Tip & PromptOn Fridays we like to share writing tips and tricks with our readers. We hope this section will encourage and inspire you to continually improve as a writer.

Writing Tip – Foreword vs. Forward

 Avoid the common mistake that an unknowing author could make in their self-published book by confusing the two words “forward” and “foreword.” When labeling the section of introductory text in beginning of your book, it’s spelled “foreword.”

 Writing Prompt – Mysterious Package

The arrival of a package possesses mystery and feelings of excitement or apprehension. Where did it come from? Who brought it and what is it? It could mean something is changing, something has happened or will happen. Imagine a scenario when a package arrives. Maybe you’re at home, not expecting company when you hear a loud knock on the door. Peeking through the window, there’s a package …

 

 

 


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