Plotter vs. Pantser-Which is Better?
It’s an age old argument… plot your story vs. sit down and just start writing.
Plotters say that knowing where the story is going is vital. How can you create a great story if you don’t know how it will end? It is essential to create an outline detailing the scenes and plot points of your story. Having character dossiers is also helpful. Without good planning, your story will end up as a muddle of disconnected plotlines and random events. Planning keeps you on track with a cohesive story structure that leads you to a satisfying end.
Pantsers (as in seat-of-the-pants writing) on the other hand believe that plotting ahead of time smothers all the life out of a story. Instead, a writer should sit down and write whatever comes to mind. Start with your character and see where she takes you. Sure, the book may end up messy and disorganized, but that’s what revision is for. Getting words down on the page without constraining yourself to an outline allows your mind to be spontaneously creative. You will come out with some amazing material that you could never have planned ahead of time.
So which of these methods is better? Well, they both are. No two writers have the same writing habits. Some work best outlining every last scene in the book. Some work best with no planning at all. If creating an outline works for you, then that’s the better one. For you. Same with using no outline. The important thing is finding the method that works for you.
If you’re not sure which one is your method, here are a few tips to try out:
- Jot down a few ideas for scenes you’d like to include.
- Organize them into a logical order (this scene needs to happen before that scene does).
- Aim to get a minimum number of scenes defined, including a good opening scene, three major plot points, a climax scene and a wrapup scene.
- Using your loose outline, begin writing. If you get ideas for other scenes, write them down and see where they fit in your outline.
- When the story is finished, use your outline as a guide for your revisions. Make sure that each scene advances the story in some way.
- Brainstorm an interesting character or event and start writing.
- Don’t try to plan ahead on your scenes, just keep typing as ideas come to you.
- If you get an idea that completely changes the story, or a new character shows up out of the blue, go with it.
- Hold off on any revisions until after the story has reached an ending.
- When the story is complete, read through it and evaluate the direction the story has taken. Eliminate plot threads and characters that went no where and tighten up the remaining material.
Which method works best for you?
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