Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Plotter or Pantster

Are you a plotter or pantster?

As a writer sets out on his journey of producing his first novel, he must decide rather he is 'by the seat of his pants' kind of writer or one that needs the story formed before ever beginning.

This dilemma has plagued me over the years and I'm still undecided. Instinct tells me that I lean more toward the panzer side of the scale but I have tried every plotting technique I've come across.

With short stories, I am definitely a panzer. I start with an idea and just start writing till I get to the end.

A novel, on the other hand, is a much larger piece of work. Some plotting is necessary at some point.

I began a novel last year during National Novel Writing Month and the result was a great story idea, a beginning, an end, and multiple scenes. I've struggled to pull these scenes into a logical ordered pattern. Plot techniques have helped a little. But with my final attempt to pull it together, my panzer way is winning out.

I've constructed a plot design into Word Excel and arranged some of the scenes where they need to go and left the rest open. Then I opened a new word document and pasted Chapter One into the document. From there I focused on my first plot point and how to get there.

I'm still in the process of pulling scenes, writing transitions, and filling in holes to reach that first plot point, but I feel I'm on the right track now.

Are you a Plotter or Panzer? Share your experience of finding your way.


Cherie Reich said...

I think I'm more of a plotter. For my first novel, though, I knew the beginning, a few scenes in the middle, and the end. Then, I just wrote to fill in the connections of what I knew. For my second novel, I had an outline. For my third, I have a more detailed outline. Short stories are a bit different, but because they are short, I tend to know where I'm at in them, even if I don't write down here is how the story will go before I start writing.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for stopping by and giving your input. It's always great to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Terry W. Ervin II said...

That is roughly the short story diagram I present to my students when talking about the basic structure of a short story.

Planning/plotting, even for a short story, I think helps me to develop a strong story. If nothing else, it saves me time on the back end with revisions.

Of course, there isn't a magic forumula for successful writing--otherwise I think it would have been discovered by now and everyone would be using it.

Anonymous said...

Terry, Thanks for stopping by and adding your thoughts. No magic formula, what! JK, if there was everyone would be doing it and the competition would be even greater. lol

Alyssa Ast said...

It really depends on the story I am writing. Sometimes I will have an idea in my head and I can just let the whole thing flow out freely. But other times I have to plot it out in order to put some sense into it.

Alyssa Ast

Anonymous said...

Alyssa, sounds like you're in between. I'm thinking that is where most of us are.

Anonymous said...

I've been more of a pantster, but now I'm trying to be more of a plotter. I'm not 100% there (maybe 80 - 85%) with the plotting yet, but after a couple of workshops at The Muse Online Writers Conference this year, I see the benefits of plotting.

Anonymous said...

Susanne, I would agree. I'm working hard to become more of a plotter. I'd like to at least make it 50/50.

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