Thursday, October 25, 2012

Plotter or Pantser

Susie Sheehey is president of Greater Ft Worth Writers, in her second term. She writes women's contemporary and romance and has completed two novels in the past year, and is struggling at the half-way point in another. She lives with her husband and rowdy 4-year-old son who loves to push her buttons. 

The epic battle of writers. Planning it out, or going with the direction of the wind, on a whim.
Some believe that plotting everything out first- characters, settings, conflict, climax and ending- destroys true creativity. That it limits where the characters want to go. Some say ‘pantsing’ it can lead you too astray from where you began. Example: Story begins as a horror/suspense with a dog, ends up a comedic romance with a pet monkey.
I’ve always been a planner. Not just in writing- school speeches, work presentations, and my first 3 manuscripts were completely outlined  before I started writing. I needed the road map to keep me on track. My safety net. (Though I refuse to admit I have attention issues. Ooh, Reese's Peanut Butter cup!)
Two months ago, I did something I’ve never done. I sat down and wrote what came to my brain. No plotting, no character sketching. I ‘pantsed’ ten chapters without stopping.
And I freakin’ loved it!
Scared a bit too, thinking the writing would be horrible, the pages full of back story and wandering motivations (and some of it was). But it was damn fun!
And I ended those chapters with the same characters I started with. No road map and I cruised along the highway with the convertible top down. Wind in my hair. No ponytail.
I'm now around chapter 12 and struggling a bit. Not sure how much further I can take it before I give in to my plotter-side and at least put together character sheets. But it’s felt good to go with the flow of my creative side.
Who’da thought it?
Are you a plotter or pantser?
Have you ever tried both?
Consider this peer pressure… Ooh, another peanut butter cup!

Follow Susie on her blog at
Follow her on @susieQwriter or Facebook


Ruby Johnson said...

I would have to say I am a plotter. Everytime I write by the seat of my pants, I find myself writing myself into a corner and never get past chapter three. That is if I get there. I really think I need the structure of a plot to keep me on track..

Claire said...

Isn't it great? The first time I ever wrote anything of length was when I did NaNoWriMo - they tell you to "pants" it - and like your experience, the words just kept coming to me. I love it too but am ADD too (can you tell?) lol

I also think both modes of writing work - depends on the person. I'd like to talk to you and Ruby about how you plan out your novels. Every bit of knowledge helps. Great article. Thanks Susie!

Lyn Horner said...

Susie, good for you trying the pantser approach. Sounds like it's working for you. I tried it once a long time ago, but unfortunately it led my characters to far astray. Since then I've become a confirmed plotter. I work up a lose outline, brainstorm with my crit partners and go from there. Of course I make changes as I write, but the main story line stays on course.

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