Insights of the Writes IV: Planner, Plantser, or Pantser?

Hi everyone! Welcome back to the last “instructional” post of Insights of the Writes, and the second to last post of this blog series. February has gone by so quickly, and so has this series! I hope you’ve been having fun reading these posts and gathering various insights to use for your later projectsย ๐Ÿ˜Š

Today’s post will be less of a recipe for how to make a good plot (because there are way too many styles and unique ways to do it than I can count!) but rather, how to find a process that works best for you. So in this post we’ll be going over three types of plotting processes (planner, plantser, and pantser) and I’ll share with you my own plotting process!

Let’s get started!

First, let’s familiarize ourselves with the terms “planner”, “plantser”, and “pantser”. Basically, a “planner” rigorously outlines their novel before writing it, a “plantser” has a decent semblance of an outline and updates it as they write, and a “pantser” has little to no outline and jumps right into the writing.

I think a lot of established authors tend to favor more of a “planner” attitude, but being a “panster” isn’t bad at all! I myself approach plot with more of a “plantser” mindsetโ€”I’ll elaborate more on this later.

Of course, within these categories of “planner”, “plantser”, and “pantser” (try saying that five times fast hehe) are several subcategories. Each writer has a completely unique process, and there is no hard and fast set of rules that go with it. The beauty about your plotting process is that there is really no right way to approach it, because it’s such a subjective art. As long as you can create a piece that you are beyond proud of with your chosen way of plotting, you’re very much good to go!

But if you’ve been doing lots of browsing, trying to find your way through terms like “The Hero’s Journey”, “Three Act Structure”, or “Save the Cat”, unsure what kind of process you should consider adopting, no need to worry! I’ve got you ๐Ÿ˜‰

So, time for bullet point breakdowns of these three types of processes! I recommend thinking about this criteria in terms of your current writing project and how you currently approach the craft.

You may consider being a planner if you:

  • trust in a methodical outline
  • dread the sight of a blank page with nothing to write
  • enjoy feeling in control of your story from the very beginning
  • have three or more characters you intend to focus on and give arcs
  • intend to have more than one subplot that will enrich the main plot
  • rely on locations to advance the plot

You may consider being a plantser if you:

  • enjoy working with the main beats of your story (character, plot, or both) and filling in the gaps as you go
  • want to start with two or three main elements and expand upon them as you write
  • hope to allow room for your future perspective to create changes or show you new directions

You may consider being a pantser if you:

  • call spontaneity your friend
  • want to take the time to understand your story through experiment
  • intend to start writing right away
  • are working with a more straightforward plot and one, maybe two, characters

For more information on the pros and cons of pantsing, I recommend reading Charis Rae’s take here.

Note that just because there was more criteria for the “planner” mindset than the other two, doesn’t mean there are more good reasons of why you should be a “planner”. It’s just that I feel like being a “planner” requires more energy and hard work in the early stages of writing (but makes revisions lots easier!), and can serve the demands of your story really well, while “plantser” and “pantser” mindsets are more of your personal preference in approaching your writing.

I hope these bullet point breakdowns helped you in deciding which process would work for your current writing project! Keep in mind, when you are at various stages in your writing career, the process you adopt can change. Plus, different stories will require different plotting processes, hence there is no right way to plot. As long as you can craft a compelling, relevant, believable, and most importantly, your own story, it doesn’t matter which plotting process you choose. Besides, you can always tweak it, find new routines to add that boost efficiency, and don’t be afraid to take out things that aren’t working for you.

As I mentioned earlier, I favor the “plantser” mindset because it just works best for me and my writing. When I have seeds of story ideas, or “plot bunnies” if you will, I like structuring the plot through bullet points (I promise I approach writing from a professional angle hehe). I’ll write down the main beats of my story, the big events that I know I want to happen, and also try to tie in theme. I also try to develop my character through these bullet points, so I end up having a decent semblance of an outline. When I write, I enjoy that feel of direction towards a big purpose, but also like having the flexibility between the main beats to branch out and explore the nature of my story in smaller, more intimate ways (if this makes sense).

Before we wrap things up, I wanted to share some funny media that I found on Twitter. While I’m not really on social media, this is probably one of the funniest things I’ve seen! Plus, it’s writing-related so all the more reason to include it here!

The link is here if you want to watch, but I’ll put it in transcript here:

CHOOSE YOUR GEN Z AUTHOR.

The Chloe: only hot chocolate, can’t stand coffee, a knife nearby for the #aesthetic, will not move for 8 hours while in the zone, might b crying

The Christina: 3 cups of tea minimum, morning writer bb, collects pretty notebooks and forgets to write in them, is probably on twitter

The Tashie: armed to the teeth with playlists and moodboards, drafts entire book in 3 weeks, chaotic but thorough outline, night owl

The Zoe: writes synopsis and ignores 95% of it, green tea/instant coffee, plotting in notes app in middle of the night, the rings stay ON during writing

The Racquel: no outline, just vibes, music while writing is a MUST, MLA format even for drafting, needs candy while typing

START WRITING IN 3, 2, 1, GO!

And that’s a wrap! Comment below: which plotting mindset do you vibe with most? Which Gen Z author matches your current process most (I’m personally a Christina ๐Ÿ˜Œ)? I hope this was helpful and good luck with the writing everyone!

12 Comments

  1. I am a Zoe (writes synopsis and ignores 95% of it) and definitely a pantser. Isn’t it strange that the only two first drafts I’ve finished are the stories I didn’t think much about at all? A lot of memorable scenes and characters just happen while I’m writing and it’s so surprising and fun. For me, that’s mostly why i love writing. When i think too much – that’s when my story starts to go stale. Oh, most of the time my outlining – except maybe for the setting and the names – goes right outside the window.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehe seems you know where you’re going tho! Ooh that’s so interesting, I agree that sometimes creativity flourishes when you just trust your instinct and GO. Outlining is definitely something that is difficult to commit to and follow, but for my personal projects, I’ve found that having a clear sense of direction and knowing the main beats of my story prevent burnout and keep me going. It’s so interesting to learn more about others’ processes though! Thank you so much for your comment, Jan, I always appreciate them!! ๐Ÿ˜Š

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is an amazing post Eleanor! ๐Ÿ’– As someone whoโ€™s trying to write more this year, this post was a great insight into what kind of plotter I might be. I havenโ€™t had the chance to comment on any of the other posts in this series, but seriously, theyโ€™ve been such a help in figuring out what I want to do with my ideas!! So thanks for that ๐Ÿ˜Š

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Abby!! ๐Ÿ’• I’m so happy this post could help a little with deciding your plotting process!! I’m so glad you enjoyed this series, thank you for reading ๐Ÿ˜Š

      Liked by 1 person

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