Skip to content

All About Writing – Are You a Plotter, Pantser, or Plotster?

Welcome to the new series, friends! This one is all about writing. Next month, we’ll take a little break from it to focus on NaNo prep instead (not just me, either – we’ll prepare together, right here on CookieBreak!), but right now? Right now, let’s answer the important questions in life!

You’ve probably seen people identify as either plotters or pantsers before – many writers include it in their Twitter and Instagram bios – but the awkward middle child, the plotster, is often overlooked or only mentioned briefly. Well, friends, I’m a plotster (for lack of a better word… I admit, I made this one up), and today I’m going to introduce you to all three!

The main difference between the three lies in how they prepare for a new WIP.

If you’re a plotter, you plan. Meticulously. You know what happens in the final chapter of your book before you even start writing the first chapter. You know where your characters are and what they’re doing when and why and with whom, and they will obey you rarely change your mind. You know what you want, and where your story is going. If you’re writing a series, you probably know what happens in every future book before you’ve even started writing Book 1, too!

Plotters are my kind of people, and for a while there I thought I was one of them. They colour-code religiously, their notes might be messy but they’re thorough, and they don’t get stuck halfway through their drafts because every chapter is planned out.

If this sounds like you, be careful not to stick too closely to your plans, though. Sometimes your characters may not develop the way you intended, and events you didn’t foresee when you first planned your book might pop up. As you delve deeper into your first draft, take care not to confine your characters to roles or scenes that might no longer suit them.

Plotters are more likely to have folders, notebooks, and files with all the information relevant to each WIP (colour-coded. religiously.) before they begin writing.

Plot ahead, but don’t be afraid to allow your WIP to evolve on its own, too.Β 

If you’re a pantser, know that I don’t understand how you get anything done.

Pantsers are the exact opposite of plotters. They don’t plan, they start and see where their idea takes them. Their books develop as they write, and aren’t confined to any one path the writer has set out for them. Books written by pantsers can really come alive, and evolve as the characters do.

However, pantsers are also more likely to hit that dreaded wall. Without a pre-plotted plan, it’s easier to get stuck or run out of ideas. We’ve all been there, and we all know how frustrating this can be! To avoid this, it can help to have a few backup ideas, something to fall back on should your characters grow tired of their freedom and stop talking to you.

Pantsers are more likely to take notes as they write, sometimes in notebooks, and sometimes on scraps of paper; whatever’s handy at the time! Often the two fuse together to create a beautiful mess.

Allow your characters and stories to take the lead, but have a backup plan just in case you hit that wall (or fall into a deep, dark pit).

The plotster is a mixture between the two, and in my opinion it’s the best of both worlds (I’m biased, though, since I’m one of them!). Plotsters plan and plot as much of their book as possible, but they also leave wriggle room for their stories and characters to develop on their own. They know what needs to happen and when, but they’re not afraid to let their characters lead them in another direction if that’s what they want. In fact, they often count on it!

Plotsters have most of their story planned, but chances are they’ve left some gaps, too. Unlike the plotter who prefers to know every chapter before he starts writing, the plotster doesn’t mind leaving a few empty index cards. Plotsters trust that, by the time they reach those empty spaces, their characters will know what needs to happen next and take the lead until the next notes pop up.

This doesn’t always work, however, and sometimes plotsters get stuck, too.

Plotsters are more likely to have notebooks filled with information for each WIP (I have a different notebook for each WIP or series, and yes, I do colour-code religiously!), but you’ll likely also find a few scraps of paper from when ideas popped up halfway through their daily commute, or in the middle of the night.

Don’t worry if you don’t have all the details before you start writing – your characters know what to do.

How do you prepare for a new WIP? Are you a plotter, pantser, or plotster? Make a cup of tea, have some biscuits, and let’s chat!


Sign up for my newsletter for updates on my books and recommendations to help you grow as a writer:

For all of my other musings, click me!

For Cookie Break’s home page, have a look here.

Published inA Writer's Musings

2 Comments

  1. I actually wrote a blog post about this too! https://authorswilliams.wordpress.com/2017/04/24/planner-or-pantser-or-both/
    I love your graphics. Plotster! what a great word!
    I am definitely a Plotster/ I love to begin a a story by free writing all the cool ideas in my head and let it take me where ever It wants. But then when I feel it has some depth to it, and I feel like I can keep creating ideas generated from the ones written out, I create a rough outline and try to follow it.

    • sarinalangerwriter sarinalangerwriter

      OOH! I’ll take a look when I get a moment! πŸ™‚
      Thank you! I’m still working on replacing all the old graphics (for everything on the Writing Resources page, anyway) but I should be there by the end of the week.
      I should try doing it that way for my elusive sci-fi idea. Maybe that’ll get it to talk.

Get a tea and a cookie, and let's chat!

%d bloggers like this: