Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Plotter or Pantster? Okay, What the Hell Is a Pantster?

During my recently-finished ebook tour with Roxanne Rhoad’s Bewitching Book Tours, I got an interview question about a word I’d never come across before.

The question asked if I was a plotter or a pantster.

Honestly, I thought this was a variance of the “boxers or briefs” question every politician seems to get (it’s boxer briefs, by the way).

Turns out, after a Google search, I was being asked if I plotted or planned my books ahead of time or just winged it, on the fly.

Of course, I’m a pantster. I rarely make up plots ahead of time. I try, don’t get me wrong. But, I usually run out of steam. I get so anxious to get my thoughts down on paper or to a Word file, that I stop plotting and type as I make it up in my head. Typing 70 words a minute helps but I still can’t keep up with my thoughts.

Do I recommend being a pantster? Not really.

It’s not for everybody. In fact, I’d say it’s not for most people. It’s for me because I’ve honed the skill working as a journalist for three decades. Especially as a sports writer, I often have to type quickly to meet tight deadlines. That means I’m creating the article in my mind as I type.

The habit carries over to my fiction. Unfortunately, I think it’s also why tend to edit my work 20 or 30 times. Because, somewhere under a bus are a slew of plot points I missed or left in the dust. That can create plot holes big enough to qualify for one of those awful Canadian-made Lifetime movies.

If you want my advice, stick to plotting. It gives you a chance to fully develop your characters before hand. It also lets you create the time and place and be accurate with your geography. If there’s one thing I wish I could change about my writing, it’s having to stop in the middle of a scene to research something to make sure I get it right. That’s like stopping in the middle of sex to read the directions for putting on a condom correctly. Yes, it’s very important and must be done the right way, but good luck getting back to the good place you were at before you stopped.

But, this is a free country. So, it’s your choice.

Plotter or pantster? Which one are you?


  1. plotter. Definitely a plotter...I can't write if I don't have at least a rough idea of where I'm going...

  2. I'm so not a plotter. I love the idea of sitting down in front of a blank screen and just writing. The most planning I do is a quick mind map to get me started. I fill it out as I go when new things pop up, but mostly, I just write as I see things happening in my brain.

  3. Good post, Greg. May I suggest the next time you feel the need to research, you just insert an asterisk and state *resarch this fact* and come back to it later. You'll find it won't break your flow as much.

  4. I'm a pantster. I've never been able to stick to an outline. My stories have lives of their own. I just go with the flow and it works.

  5. I've tried plotting. Doesn't work for me. Stories take a life of their own and I enjoy finding out what happens next as it occurs.

    And I do what CJ suggests. It does keep me in the flow better.

  6. DRC, hey, whatever works, stick with it.

    LynnRush, that's what happens in my head. Or so the doctors say.

    C.J., I'd do the asterisk thing if it didn't mean some form of plotting or planning.

    Christine, make sure when those stories take on lives of their own, they don't stick you with the phone bills and rent.

    Stacy, I say good for you. Plotting often leads to conspiracy charges with the cops.

    Everyone, thanks for reading and replying.

  7. I didn't know what a "panster" was either, until maybe last year. I'm definitely a panster. I can't wait to get working on what's in my head. Plotting comes along because I follow Plot lines, but usually if I try to tell my characters what they are going to do, I loose. So, I never argue with the characters. They seem to know what they're doing. I merely get it all down for them. (^;

  8. Do you think that you are actually writing. Or is your muse doing the writing? Or both? Do you actually think the physical person is doing everything, without much help from the deep inner workshop