Monday, 9 April 2012

What are plotting and pantsing?

So, if you're new to the online world of writing, you may have heard the terms plotter, pantser & (in some cases...) plantser. These all refer to the writing process. More specifically, these all apply to the planning process (or lack of.) This will be a short, simple post to just explain the terms of the three words. At the end, you can answer this question:

Are you a plotter, pantser or plantser? 


It's easy enough to guess what this one means. It mean you plot (or plan if you prefer) and you also research. Some of you could be thinking,
but I thought ALL successful writers planned their stories? 
They don't.
Some are plotters, and some aren't plotters.

Usually, plotters will plan out their books in tremendous detail. They will fill post-it pads, notebooks, storyboards and outlines galore with everything that will happen. They will stick to what they have planned during the writing part of the process. Sometimes, they will realise something isn't working and go back to the planning stage— changing the concept and testing the new one before resuming. This is called revising, and is unlike the revising you do for exams. It sounds like a lot of work but many people do the whole plotting thing and realise afterwards that they've done it. It's a good way to feel confident in knowing your story and where it is going. However, this technique can take forever depending on many things (how much of a perfectionist you are, how decisive you are, the complexity of the story etc...)


Pantser is an unusual sounding term. It basically describes someone who doesn't do any planning before writing a story. Essentially, they write by the seat of their pants (an odd expression.) In simpler terms, they think up a premise (EG, a vampire that falls for a werewolf) and they sit at a desk, open up a word document/notepad and write. Sounds scary to most of you, right? 

There is nothing wrong with pantsing it. Many successful writers are pantsers, and as far as the writing process as a whole is concerned, it could be the fastest way to complete a book. Starting to sound appealing? The down sides to this technique are pretty obvious: more editing, increased chance of 'writers block', more stress, less confidence. Often, the sub-plots and such like aren't as successfully interwoven when a draft is written using a pantsing technique. Saying that, first drafts are supposed to be messy. That's the fun of it. The problem starts when the fourth, fifth and tenth drafts are the same.


No, this has nothing to do with plants. If you haven't guessed already, plantsing is a mixture of both plotting and pantsing. There are varying degrees of ratio when it comes to this technique. Some writers lean towards more plotting and less pantsing, whereas, others do lots of pantsing and a little plotting. 

A Plantser will do some research (especially if they aren't familiar with one aspect of their story) and possibly jot down what they'd like to happen in the story. However, when they are writing the story, they are a lot more likely to dismiss their earlier plans and do something completely different. That is the pantser side of them. It seems like the Plantser approach to writing is the best of both worlds, right? Yes. Although, it is all down to personal taste and, more often, personal tendencies. 

So, what am I?

If you asked me last year, I would of told you I was a Plantser.
This year, however, I am anything but. 

As I've described it, a Plantser is someone who incorporates both techniques in their writing. They use both techniques together. As I have developed my writing, I've developed the tendency to use whichever technique I think is best. For my main WiP, a full length novel, I have changed from using a plantsing approach to a full on plotting approach. And it took me a while to realise that. On the other hand, for my novella/noveletta, I have completely pantsied it. 

I guess that proves that you don't have to fall into any particular category, or at least permanently.  

Feel free to answer the question below, in the comments.

Did I say short post? bad! *cheeky grin*
Happy writing!


  1. I cannot plan anything! If I do, I lose my creativity. :/ Many of my writer-friends plan, however, and it's interesting, because you can tell it in their writing (Well, I can tell) which isn't a bad thing, it's just super concise and structured. lol.

    Great post!! :)

    1. I'm sure you aren't alone either, Ashley! There isn't anything wrong with pantsing it all the time, whatever works! I do agree that sometimes you can tell if something has been written by a plotter, and again, there isn't anything wrong with that!

      Thanks! :-D


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