Friday, January 27, 2012

Plotter or Pantster by: D. C. Rich

Oh look, it's a guest, on my blog.  Wait... when did that happen?  Um, now?  

I'd like to welcome Dean C. Rich to the Realm. I met him at AQC. He's part of the Speculative Fiction group I joined several months ago, where he does critiques for fellow members, and adds to the helpful silliness that makes me love the group. He has a blog called The Write Time where he has advice for us writers and several guests from AQC and beyond. You can also find him on twitter as @DeanCRich 

And so without further ado and with now more delay I give you dum dum duuummm ...

Plotter or Pantster

I once saw a sports commentator inside the football locker room showing the offensive line’s lockers. Everything was nice and tidy. The jersey’s were hung up neatly, the cleats were lined up. It looked like Monk’s closet.

Then the commentators went over to the defensive line’s lockers. Those looked like tornados had ripped through them. They laughed and said this was typical. The offensive players always have a plan. They study the defense, and put together a way to beat them. 
The defense on the other hand react to what the offense is doing. 

Thus the lockers reflect planning vs. reacting. 

Professionally I have done a lot of planning. I changed jobs and ended up dealing with chaos, but I found that even with everything going crazy there was a rhythm. So we made plans and put things in place to bring order to chaos. It worked, now my new job is much easier.

Writers come in two flavors as well, neat and tidy with a plot outline complete with full characters bios and pedigrees. The other has an idea and jumps on their laptop and pounds out a novel by, well, the seat of their pants. The pantster.

Both methods work. I am not in a position to say which is better. Believe it or not I use both methods. I start off with an idea and write until I can’t go further. Then I think things through and start to build outlines and character bios. I’ve also gone the other way and started out with outlines and start writing and the outline goes out the window.

I had planned on making the queen a puppet ruler. The big scene came up and as I was writing my young queen took charge of the situation and turned the council of regents on its collective ear. My carefully crafted plot flew out the window at that moment. It was a neat moment for me as a writer, my character took on a life of her own and became the queen. 

So, yes I’ll be a fence sitter with this debate, planner or pantster which is better. I think you need to be able to do both. A balance that works, at least it has worked for me.

Which are you? Why does that method work for you?


  1. I've tried both... and find myself on the fence too. There are aspect of both methods that are awesome, but a balance means I don't have to edit for ages (like with pure pantsering) or struggle to keep myself pumped (like with pure plotstering).

  2. I started with pantsing and then tried plotting. I have to say, being on the fence, doing a little of both does keep me more balanced. I agree with you on this DC. :D
    Love the Football referenced! GO PATS!!! :D

  3. Primarily I'm a pantser but admit to being a mental plotter. My natural aversion to authority (even my own) has me bristling under anything I try to cast in stone. So far, I think it works