There’s tons of information online about two kinds of writers—the plotter and the pantser.
Plotters plan their novels from beginning to end before they start writing. One preeminent plotter is mystery writer, Elizabeth George. George, one of my heroes, begins her process with a step outline that includes a list of scenes in her novel.
“On and on I go, until I’ve exhausted all the possibilities for the section of the novel I’m writing about,” she says in Write Away, her brilliant (in my humble opinion) book on the craft of writing. The next step in George’s process is to flush out these scenes in a meticulously detailed plot outline that can go on for pages.
Whew. How does she do that and keep churning out novels? Where does she find the time?
Pantsers, on the other hand, are so called because they write by the seat of their pants when writing a story. Steven King could be called the pantser poster child. He gets an idea, then sits down to write.
We all know how that’s working for him, right?
After years of struggling to follow outlines and plot worksheets, I realized that I intuitively tend toward the Pantser style of writing. I didn’t understand this about myself until I read author Margaret Duarte’s post about King’s views on plotting, margaretduarte.com “King distrusts plot,” she writes. He believes that “plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.”
I’ve since reread King’s, Steven King on Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, and decided to give his philosophy a go. As a result, I’ve never felt freer or more engaged with my writing. I’ve met new characters and followed new plot twists, simply because I’m willing trust the silence and wait for creative guidance.
I couldn’t have made the switch from Plotter to Pantser without two things. I have a handle on the basics of writing good fiction. And before I put my first word on paper, I have an idea of what I want to say and where my story’s going. Without either of these things, I couldn’t have made the switch.
Hmmm—does that make me a Pantserette instead of the real thing?