The question, plotter or pantser? is an ever famed question and almost all writers fall into one of the two categories. However, there are also writers out there who toe the middle line. These writers are called plansters. There is no right category. Thus, this article is to help you figure out which of the categories you fall into.
Who is a Plotter?
A plotter is someone who plans out their novel before they write it. Plotters are of many kinds, depending on how much of it they do before they start. Regardless, outlining their novel before writing is extremely important to these writers. In fact, it’s essential to their writing process. It’s what keeps their story structure intact, and it is important for them to have it before writing in order to finish their manuscript.
Plotters like being aware of where the story is going and what is going to happen before writing it. A plan gives them a journey path, and it saves them a lot of time and tada, word count numbers when they do write their book.
Plotters, having planned out their novel ahead of time, know what’s going to happen before they write it so they hardly meander in their writing. This makes it easier to bust writer’s block. It’s harder to get stuck when you know what’s going to happen next. Plotters also tend to get their novels written faster, or at least more smoothly. Due to the coherency of their plot before they start, they also tend to have their pacing in a good place (maybe not the best it could be) in the first draft.
Plotters are usually confined to their plans such that if they get a new idea or something has to change, they almost always have to redo the whole outline. That is usually enormous work.
Who is a Pantser?
A pantser is someone who “flies by the seat of their pants,” meaning they don’t plan out anything in their story, or plan very little and usually like to take something vague and run with it.
They don’t need or want a detailed outline. In fact, their writing style is mostly about learning the story as they write it. They like to get lost in character arcs and situations and usually let their imagination lead them to finish.
Pantsers have the freedom to take their novel in any direction they want. They love the blank page and thrive on the thrill of the ideas that come as they type. They also have flexibility. They’re not stuck following an outline, so they can make executive creative decisions without a worry for the long term effect. If they don’t like the way their plot is going, they can change it. Another advantage that pansters have is a fertile ground of the best interactions though not always coherent for when they do start on a second draft.
Because they don’t usually have plans, they get stuck or write themselves into a corner without a feasible way to dig themselves out. This is why most pantsers have a trail of unfinished projects behind them.
Even when they do finish projects, it takes a lot of work to revise, cut and discard all the extraneous bits they don’t need in the story.
But then, some writers toe the middle line. These writers are usually called PLANTSERS.
A planter is someone who could write a synopsis and come up with important details that drive their story ideas or they could be the kind of writer that enjoys planning out their plot arcs, character arcs and backstory but during the writing of the novel, and allow themselves some freedom in some parts. They like a taste of writing life on the seat of their pants but also prefer knowing the main bus stops they’re writing towards.
Depending on which side they lean on, the advantages and disadvantages of planters can be similar to those of planners or pantsers.
Next, I’ll share some resources that can be of great help to each category of writers. Here are some of them:
For planners, they need all the details and nitty-gritty of their stories. Here are links to some of the resources I’ve found very helpful in planning your novel to the core:
Master Spreadsheet Planner with Plot Beats:
Six Stage Planner Incorporating Character Arcs:
Scene Element Breakdown:
Due to the flexibility of their first drafting, pantsers are usually advised to make use of planners on their second draft or revision stage. The above spreadsheets can be used to plan a rewrite but here are some resources that will greatly help pantsers in the revising stage of things —
Planters can either fall more into the planning category or the pantsing category but whichever one you lean more into, here are resources that you’re sure to need:
How to Write a One Page Synopsis:
A ten-step synopsis:
Character Arc Guides:
I hope the above proves useful for you on your journey as a writer and that you’ll eagerly await our next blog posts on general writing tips.