So I Guess I’m a Plantser?

Most of us have heard the terms Plotter and Pantser. Plotters plan out their writing. Some go as far as outlining each chapter before writing a word. Pantsers are the opposite. They “fly by the seat of their pants” and let the story flow as characters speak through them.

If you’re familiar with NaNoWriMo, the topic of Plotter v. Pantser comes up pretty often. They have a slew of articles on their blog debating the pros and cons of each.

There’s been talk of a third option–Plantser–for authors who fall somewhere in between. In reality, most of us do, although we tend to classify ourselves as one or the other.

Until this week, I’ve always considered myself a 99% Pantser. I’ve got one completed novel, a second I’m in the final stages of editing, and a third in draft stage–and I wrote all three in full Panster mode. Normally, my writing starts with character/voice/emotion and only a general sense of plot and conflict. I let the main character tell the story and often feel like I’m taking dictation. It’s worked for me.

Why the change?

Last month, I started a fourth novel based on a short bit I wrote for a horror anthology. The short story was, as usual, a Pantser project. My MC’s voice was crystal clear, but I had no idea what would happen in the story until it flowed from my keyboard onto the page.

I loved the character so much I decided to convert the 5,000-word piece into a full-length novel. But after a brainstorming session with my fabulous agency, Victress Literary, I realized I hadn’t built an adequate world in my head or had a true grasp of my main character’s internal conflict. When I tried to sit down and write, all those unanswered questions led to a crazy case of writer’s block.

So I started outlining … or almost-outlining

Like a madwoman. 20-odd pages later, I realized I was plotting out the MC’s character arc, writing detailed descriptions for all the other characters and even making fairly major decisions about plot in this book, as well other possible ones that might follow in a series.

This was totally new and kind of freaky. I’m not sure what will happen when I actually sit down and write next week, since my characters tend to get testy if I try to force them to do anything. But I thought I’d share the experience, because I didn’t realize I could break a bad case of writer’s block by, well, plotting things out.

No one is more suprised than me to realize I might actually have some Plotter in my stream-of-consciousness Pantser writing brain. But it worked. So if you’re a confirmed Pantser and ever find yourself at odds with your writing, you might just want to give some plotting a try.

Are you a Plotter or a Pantser or somwhere in between? I’d love to hear how you write. If you have a moment, let me know in the comments below.