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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.