April 6, 2017 in Dag

Am I a pantsing plotter or a plotting pantser?

One of the discussions that never seems to go away in the writing community is the distinction between plotters and pantsers.

You know the deal. The plotter is the writer who plans out ever aspect of their story in detail while the pantser is the one who makes it up as they go along (i.e. flying by the seat of their pants).

I’ve always found myself caught between these two modes for writing.

I’ve written stories that have very much been planned – e.g. my two fantasy novels,  Magnus Opum and Through the Flame, as well as both of my fables (Flidderbugs and Dinosaurs). With each of these, I wrote extensive notes and plotted things out well in advance.

I’ve also written stories that have totally been pantsed. These include the three Neville Lansdowne stories (Doodling, Scribbling and Scrawling) which all started from a throwaway line (Neville Lansdowne fell off the world/pushed the world out of shape/drowned in a sea of words) and proceeded from there. Or my detective thriller, A Fate Worse Than Death – I was most of the way through a first daft before I even figured out who actually committed the crime.

Then again, when I say that one lot of stories was plotted and the other was pantsed, there are still a few blurry lines between the procedures. With the Neville stories for instance, even if their initial development is quite unplanned, there always comes a point where I have to sit down and figure out how to turn a sequence of random encounters into a coherent story.

The opposite hold true for the stories I’ve supposedly plotted. For both novels, while most of the main plot points were planned out, there was still quite a bit of making it up as I went along to fill in some of the gaps between these points. For example, with Magnus Opum, while I knew the general structure, it took me a long time to figure out exactly how the story would resolve. There’s even a point where the main characters drive the two competing armies into a labyrinth to buy a bit of time as they try to figure out how to prevent what looks like being a disastrous battle – this was actually me as a writer trying to find a way to buy time as I tried to figure the same thing out for myself.

This plotting v pantsing divide is really affecting me as I plan for my new novel. My original idea was for this to be very much a plotted story. I wanted to have as much figured out as I could before I began writing. Problem was, there was only so far I could go with planning before writing. I just didn’t know enough about the main characters, and the only way I could think of to find out more was to begin writing them.

So I suppose this sums up my writing method. Generally, I like to plan out the main parts of the story while pantsing a lot of the specific details. I’m not sure if that makes my a pantsing plotter or a plotting pantser. All I know is either way is a lot of fun.


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