Archive for the ‘#plotting’ Tag

Are You a Plotter or a Pantser?   4 comments

Writers typically fall into one of two camps, either they plot out every single detail of their soon-to-be novel, chapter by chapter, scene by scene, making copious notes about characters, interviewing characters, writing backstory on the characters, knowing the beginning, the middle and the end before they write a word. They are called: PLOTTERS.

There is nothing wrong with knowing where your story is going and who’s going along on their journey, many writers thrive with this method. There are plenty of worksheets out there to use, Blake Synder’s SAVE THE CAT

is a great resource for novelists even though it was written for screenwriters. Beatsheets are found on various websites for writer’s to use.

Some writers use a hybrid approach and only plot main points or events.

An interesting approach I’ve used is the Reverse Outline. This is where you write down the ending, what happened right before the ending, what happened right before THAT and so on until you get to the beginning. This approach can also be done after the novel is finished to make sure your scenes work.

Writers can use their laptop with Office Word, a special writing software such as Scrivener or ywriter or many others. You can write using apps like Evernote on your tablet or iPad, you can write with a pen and paper in your Moleskin or journal. You can write on napkins in your favorite coffee shop. There are many ways to get your words out into the real or virtual world. Plotters can write scenes out of order. They may write a beginning scene or one at the end or several in the middle and later in the editing phase they’ll put them together in a form that makes sense.

I am not a plotter. Oh, I’ve tried. Believe me. Many times. I’ve done the writing software stuff, the outline, the scene by scene even writing on index cards or on a virtual index card a list of my scenes. It took me a while to figure out all I need to start a story is an idea, a character or a situation. I usually know the beginning of the novel, maybe I know the end but not always. Sometimes I do bullet points on an index card.

I have to face the truth.


PANTSERS write by the seat of their pants–hence the term: Pants-er meaning they don’t always know the character’s arc or storyline until they are in the midst of the story and sometimes not even then.

In order to pants it properly (say that three times fast) you need to have your idea/plot/story/character and you start writing. It’s okay to not know but I have to warn you, this leads to many, many editing/revisions down the road.

For example, in the latest book I entered into The Writer’s Voice contest (THE HEARTSEASE DETECTIVE AGENCY) it’s a fantasy detective noir. I had the idea to write a cozy mystery but I wanted it to be different. So I came up with a human male detective who is in love with a female faerie who happens to be a lounge singer in a sleezy club downtown. In this world Fae are accepted as “real” and are subject to human laws. All right, I had the idea then I had to figure out the characters. I based both the detective and the lounge singer on Bogie and Bacall in the 1940s even though this is present day. I knew I wanted the opening to start with Ree (the main character) singing in the club and I knew there had to be a murder fairly soon. In cozy mysteries they usually happen in the first chapter “off stage”meaning not in front of the amateur sleuth and I knew the detective interviewing Ree would be the love interest. After that….???

I started writing and the story developed as I went along. The hardest part of writing a mystery is coming up with red herrings–suspects the reader thinks might be the killer but isn’t. For a mystery you have to include these in your plot sprinkled throughout the story. Yes, I had to do some plotting.

Once the book was written, I did a reverse outline to make sure all the scenes made sense. I edited it, sent it out to beta readers (readers who will tell you if something is confusing or if there are any plot holes) and edited it again. Rewrote the beginning three times and there you go. I edit as I go which some writers don’t do (NaNoWriMo writers, I’m looking at you!) and just put the words down and edit later. I have to do some light editing as I go. I don’t worry about word count because I’ll add more in the editing part if the word count is low or cut if the word count is too high. I’m also a linear writer meaning I go from the beginning to the end in a straight line. I tried writing out of sequence and couldn’t do it.

I don’t fall squarely into either side so I’m more of a hybrid but I still call myself a Pantser.

No one writing process works for everyone. The important point is to find your own style, own it and use it. Try out many methods until you find one that works for you then BIC (behind in chair) and write until you finish the book. Then comes the fun part. THE EDITING PHASE. More on that in my next post.

So there you have it. Plotting vs Pantsing. Which is your method? Tell me in the comments below and happy writing!

Posted May 31, 2015 by kathleea in Uncategorized

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