Plotter or Pantser

The epic battle of writers. Planning it out, or going with the direction of the wind, on a whim.

Some believe that plotting everything out first- characters, settings, conflict, climax and ending- destroys true creativity. That it limits where the characters wants to go. Some say ‘pantsing’ it can lead you too astray from where you began. Example: Story starts out a horror/suspense with a dog, ends up a comedic romance with a pet monkey.

I’ve always been a planner. Not just in writing- school speeches, work presentations, and my first 3 manuscripts were completely outlined  before I started writing. I needed the road map to keep me on track. My safety net.

Just this last month, I did something I’ve never done. Sat down and wrote what came to my brain. No plotting, no character sketching. I ‘pantsed’ four chapters without stopping.

And I freakin’ loved it!

Scared a bit too, thinking the writing would be horrible, the pages full of back story and wandering motivations (and some of it was). But it was damn fun!

And I ended those four chapters with the same characters I started with. No road map and I’m still cruising along the highway with the convertible top down. Wind in my hair. No ponytail.

Not sure how far I’ll go before I give in to my plotter-side and at least put together character sheets. But it’s felt good to go with the flow of my creative side.

Who’da thought it?

Are you a plotter or pantser?

Have you ever tried both?

Consider this peer pressure…

Writing on the Fly

Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Image via Wikipedia

I used to read the ‘choose your own adventure’ books when I was a kid.  Things like “Where in the World is: Carmen Sandiego?” was one I really liked.  They of course made a whole bunch of software games out of it, but the idea is still something I admire.  Yet fail to replicate.

I’m one of those writers where I have an outline, a plan, for both my storyline and characters before I even begin the first chapter.  I may not have all of the details worked out or know what ‘quirks’ my heroine will possess, but I know all of the main scenes that build tension, conflict, and the climax, and I know how my story will end well before I start. Writing on the fly by the seat of my pants is never something I was able to do effectively.  I’m not an impromptu person.  Anyone who’s ever seen me give an impromptu speech completely understands it’s not my forte.  Writing is the same way for me.  I’ve tried it and end up going back and re-writing much of what I just wrote when I led myself into a dead-end or something extremely boring.

I admire the writers who can, literally, sit down without a single thing planned in their head, and write a manuscript.  And even more amazing, they write a story that’s intriguing, unique, and one I can’t put down.  They don’t know what comes next, they let the characters decide the next scene.  The next problem.  Everything evolves in their mind as they write.  My mind can’t ‘evolve’ like that.

But even if I can’t get my mind to work like that in my writing career (can I call it a career even though I haven’t been published, yet?), I love those kinds of stories.  They give you a scenario and you have to choose a path: Option A- he travels to the crime scene, Option B- he calls the reporter with all the info, Option C- he fights the bartender for another drink, Option D- he kisses the girl senselessly and they drive off into the sunrise.  All choices lead you in a different direction.  And I wonder if the final outcome would be the same among all the various paths to choose?  Now, with Carmen San Diego, they would lead you to dead ends and you’d have to back track to find the ‘right’ path (much like how my mind works when I write), but I still liked the option.

I wonder if these writers who can write on the fly feel the same kind of wonder?  They must wake up thinking, ‘Where will my story lead today?’ Or ‘What kind of mischief will my hero get into today?’  Or for the more cynical writers, ‘What horrible catastrophe or torture can I put my heroine through this morning?’

On the Fly Writing


What do you think?  Do you like ‘choose your own adventure’ stories?  For you writers, can you write on the fly or do you have to plan it out?  For you readers, which do you think would be the most interesting to read?