Plantsters, Plotters and Pantsers: 6 Techniques to Supercharge Your Inner Writer’s Success

What are Plotters and Pantsers and Plantsers

As an author with years of experience in science fiction, young adult literature, and innovative writings on AI and the Metaverse, I’ve come to appreciate the diversity of approaches in the writing process. Whether you’re an aspiring writer or a seasoned veteran, understanding the different strategies writers employ to bring their visions to life can open up new possibilities for your own work. In particular, the distinction between “plotters” and “pantsers” offers fascinating insights into the creative process.

When it comes to writing, the world of authors can broadly be divided into three camps – Plotters, Pantsers, and Plantsers. Each carries its own set of unique strengths and potential drawbacks, and knowing which one you are can offer a fresh lens to refine your craft. Let’s delve into these fascinating identities to enhance your writing journey.

Three Types of Writers

All writers are on a quest to transform their thoughts into words, but the path they take can vary significantly.

First, we have the Plotters. These are the writers who map out their story meticulously before they start writing. They create detailed outlines, know their characters in-depth, and have a clear vision of their story’s beginning, middle, and end.

Second, there are the Pantsers. These writers fly by the seat of their pants, allowing their story to unravel as they write. Pantsers often start with a vague idea or a single character and then let the story evolve naturally, making exciting discoveries along the way.

Last, we have the Plantsers, who are a blend of both. They might have a basic plot outline but are open to deviating from it. Plantsers enjoy having a sense of direction but also savor the thrill of spontaneous storytelling.

Now, let’s take a closer look at each type of writer and their respective pros and cons.

What is a Plotter?

Plotters, often associated with the phrase “plotter writer”, are those authors who prefer to have every detail of their story organized and laid out before they start writing. They often create comprehensive outlines, character biographies, and even detailed maps of their story’s universe. This approach can help ensure consistency and avoid plot holes.

Pros of being a Plotter

Plotting has several advantages. First, it offers clarity. A clear outline can act as a roadmap, ensuring that the writer knows exactly where the story is heading. This clarity can significantly reduce instances of writer’s block, as the plotter already knows what happens next.

Second, plotters often have well-developed characters. Since they spend a lot of time on their character’s backstories before they start writing, their characters tend to be more consistent and well-rounded.

Third, a plotter’s story tends to have a well-structured plot. Since they already have the plot details ironed out, the story usually has a logical flow, with all the loose ends neatly tied up by the end.

Cons of being a Plotter

Despite its advantages, plotting has its drawbacks. For one, it can be time-consuming. Plotters spend a significant amount of time planning, which might slow down the actual writing process.

Also, there’s a risk of becoming too rigid. Sticking too strictly to an outline can sometimes stifle creativity and spontaneity. Writers might miss out on surprising developments that could make their story more exciting.

Some famous plotters include J.K. Rowling, who famously plotted out all seven Harry Potter books on a hand-drawn spreadsheet, and R.L. Stine, who claims to spend a week on an outline before he starts writing a book.

What is a Pantser?

Pantsers, or “pantser writers”, are the exact opposite of plotters. They dive into their writing headfirst with little to no planning, preferring to let the story and characters evolve naturally as they write. The term ‘pantser’ comes from the phrase ‘flying by the seat of your pants’, reflecting their spontaneous approach to storytelling.

Pros of being a Pantser

The approach of pantsing offers its unique set of advantages. For starters, it provides freedom. With no outlines to confine them, pantsers can take their story wherever it leads them. This freedom can result in unexpected and exciting plot twists that neither the writer nor the reader sees coming.

Another advantage of pantsing is that it often leads to authentic characters. As pantsers allow their characters to develop naturally during the writing process, these characters tend to be more organic and realistic.

Finally, pantsing can make the writing process feel more like an adventure. Not knowing what comes next can be exhilarating, making the writing process more engaging and enjoyable.

Cons of being a Pantser

While pantsing can be exciting, it also has its downsides. One of the most significant is the lack of direction. Without a clear plan, pantsers may find themselves stuck in the middle of their story, unsure of where to take their characters next.

Another downside is the risk of creating inconsistent characters or plots. Since pantsers often make up their story as they go along, they might end up with characters that behave inconsistently or plots that have loose ends.

Some famous pantsers include Stephen King, who once stated in an interview that outlining is “the last thing I want to do”; and Margaret Atwood, who claims that she often starts writing with just a vague idea and sees where it takes her.

What is a Plantser?

Plantsers represent a middle ground between plotters and pantsers. They might start with a basic outline but allow themselves the freedom to deviate from it as the story progresses. The term ‘plantser’ is a portmanteau of ‘plotter’ and ‘pantser’, reflecting their hybrid approach to storytelling.

Pros of being a Plantser

Being a plantser combines the benefits of both plotting and pantsing. Firstly, they have a road map. Having a rough outline helps plantsers keep their story on track and prevents them from getting stuck midway.

At the same time, plantsers are open to exploration. While they have a general idea of where their story is going, they are not confined to it. If a new, exciting idea pops up in the midst of writing, plantsers feel free to follow it.

Plantsers often find their writing process to be dynamic and flexible. Since they are not tied to a detailed outline but still have a broader plan, they often enjoy the process of discovery in their writing while having a safety net to fall back on.

Cons of being a Plantser

However, being a plantser has its challenges as well. There is always the risk of leaning too heavily to one side and becoming a full-blown plotter or pantser. Plantsers might end up either over-plotting and restricting their creativity or under-plotting and losing direction.

Another challenge plantsers might face is decision paralysis. With the freedom to either stick to the plan or venture into the unknown, they might find themselves unsure about which path to follow.

A famous plantser is George R.R. Martin, who describes himself as a “gardener” writer. He knows the broad strokes of his story, but the finer details emerge as he writes.

Why be a Plotter instead of a Pantser?

Choosing to be a plotter over a pantser could stem from the desire for a more structured writing process. With a clear roadmap, plotters reduce the risk of encountering writer’s block, as they always know what comes next. Their meticulous pre-writing preparation might also lead to more cohesive and intricately woven narratives. Moreover, for writers working under tight deadlines or managing complex storylines, plotting can be an essential tool for effectively managing their time and resources.

Why be a Pantser instead of a Plotter?

Opting for pantsing over plotting often comes from a love for spontaneity. Pantsers relish in the creative freedom that comes with exploring their narrative and characters organically. They thrive in the thrill of discovery, the joy of unexpected plot twists, and the authenticity of characters who develop naturally. Additionally, for writers who feel that plotting restricts their creativity or makes their writing feel forced, pantsing can be a liberating alternative.

Which Method is Better?

In the end, the “better” method between plotting, pantsing, and plantsing depends on the writer’s personal style and the demands of their particular project. Some writers might find that a detailed outline stiffens their creativity, while others might need a structured plan to stay on track. It’s crucial for each writer to experiment with different approaches and find out what works best for them. Remember, the ultimate goal is to create a compelling and enjoyable piece of writing – the path taken to reach that destination can vary.

Comparing the Three Methods

To provide a clearer perspective, let’s compare these three methods in a simple table:

  1. Plotter: High structure, low spontaneity, best for complex narratives
  2. Pantser: Low structure, high spontaneity, best for character-driven narratives
  3. Plantser: Moderate structure and spontaneity, best for balanced narratives

In conclusion, whether you’re a plotter, a pantser, or a plantser, the key is to embrace your approach and use it to your advantage. Writing is a deeply personal journey, and it’s all about finding the method that allows you to express your creativity in the most fulfilling and productive way. As a writer who has delved into the realms of science fiction, young adult literature, and the metaverse, I’ve found that each project may require a different approach.

The differences between plotters, pantsers, and plantsers can be understood more clearly with this comparative table:

PlotterPantserPlantser
OutlineDetailed before writing beginsNone or minimalBasic structure with flexibility
ProsClear direction, Less writer’s block, OrganizedSpontaneity, Discover surprises along the way, Creative freedomBalance of structure and spontaneity, Room for character growth and unexpected turns
ConsMay feel rigid, Can stifle spontaneity, Changes can require extensive rewritesRisk of meandering plot, Higher possibility of writer’s block, May require extensive editingMight struggle finding the balance, Could end up with a disjointed narrative, May require both extensive planning and editing
Famous ExamplesJ.K. Rowling, R.L. StineStephen King, George R.R. MartinMargaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman

 

When it comes to writing, there’s no one-size-fits-all method. Some writers swear by detailed outlines and can’t start until they have every scene mapped out. Others find that too constraining and prefer to let the story unfold as they write. Still, others prefer a combination of the two.

Tying it All to Ghostwriting

Now, you might wonder, how does this apply to ghostwriting? Just as with any form of writing, understanding whether you’re a plotter, a pantser, or a plantser can be immensely beneficial in ghostwriting too.

As a ghostwriter, you’re stepping into someone else’s shoes, writing in their voice, and bringing their ideas to life. This requires a certain level of adaptability. Depending on your client’s needs, you may need to draft a detailed outline (plotter), go with the flow and let the story lead you (pantser), or employ a mix of both strategies (plantser).

Your preferred method could also impact the types of ghostwriting projects you accept. If you’re a plotter, you might excel at projects where the client provides a detailed brief. On the other hand, if you’re a pantser, you might enjoy projects that allow you creative freedom.

Plotters and Pantsters FAQ

What are plotters and pantsers?

Plotters and pantsers are two distinct types of writers. Plotters are writers who plan and outline their story before they begin writing. They know the plot, the characters, and the ending before they start. Pantsers, on the other hand, are writers who write by the seat of their pants, without a detailed plan. They allow the story to unfold organically as they write.

What is the difference between a plotter and a pantser?

The main difference between a plotter and a pantser lies in the approach to writing. A plotter begins with a detailed plan or outline of the story, including its plot, characters, and ending. This allows them to have a clear roadmap for their story from the beginning. In contrast, a pantser starts writing without a detailed plan, allowing the story to unfold on its own. They often discover the plot and the characters as they write.

Is Stephen King a plotter or a pantser?

Stephen King is known to be a pantser. In his book "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft," he shared that he rarely plots his stories ahead of time and prefers to discover the story as he writes, which is a characteristic trait of a pantser.

What is a pantser in writing style?

A pantser in writing style is a writer who prefers to write without a detailed plan or outline. The term "pantser" comes from the phrase "writing by the seat of your pants." Pantsers let the story unfold naturally, often discovering the plot and characters as they go. This spontaneous approach can lead to unexpected twists and turns, making the writing process an exciting journey of discovery.

Conclusion

Plotters, pantsers, and plantsers each have their unique strengths and challenges. As a writer, recognizing your natural inclination can help you optimize your writing process and increase your productivity. It’s about identifying the conditions that allow your creativity to flourish and crafting an environment that fosters it.

Whether you’re a science fiction novelist like me, dabbling in young adult books or exploring concepts about AI and the metaverse, or even a ghostwriter stepping into someone else’s world, knowing whether you’re a plotter, a pantser, or a plantser is part of understanding your creative identity. Embrace your method, refine it, and keep writing. Remember, the beauty of writing lies not only in the finished product but also in the journey of crafting the narrative.

 

Richard Lowe
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Marysa

I would say I am a planter. I jump in to writing, but I also usually frame it out as I go along or partway. Fun to read about the different types. Everyone has their own style!

Ivan Carlo Jose

I’ve always considered myself a pantser. I tend to just write nonstop and organize my article later on. Sometimes, I would organize my thoughts as I write them down. I like the freedom it gives me and I find that truly relaxing, especially when I’m writing my blog posts.

Ben

I’m definitely a pantster. I just let whatever come out of my brain. The only problem is that I sometimes find myself painted into a corner.

SONIA SEIVWRIGHT

I completely agree with this statement! As someone who loves to write, I have found that recognising my natural inclination as either a plotter, pantser, or plantser has helped me optimise my writing process and increase my productivity. It’s important to identify the conditions that allow your creativity to flourish and craft an environment that fosters it. Writing is such a beautiful journey, and it’s important to embrace your method, refine it, and keep going. Whether you’re writing science fiction, young adult books, or anything in between, it’s all about understanding your creative identity and letting your imagination take flight.

Allison C

As a reader, your post was fascinating to me! I had never heard of 2 of the 3 categories before, at least not with those names. While I don’t write novels, the information I gained from reading this makes me want to go back and think about the approach used by some of my favorite works and some not so favorites. Curious to see if I can deduce which strategy appeals to me.

Tameka H

I am definitely a pantser. I love when my characters take on a life of their own.