Writer Wednesday—Plotter, Panster, Who Cares?

A lot of mention has been made of one’s writing method, and what it comes down to is that is simply doesn’t matter. Do what you think is right for you. Notice that I didn’t say “what you feel;” feelings are what you pour into your work. Thinking is what you do for your career.


You can plot and plan, but most writers have a day job too, and as you all know, life gets in the way of many things we want to do. Even, sometimes, things we need to do.

You may work best with a set time to write, and you may be able to stick with that most of the time. But what about the times you don’t? Do you feel bad? Guilty? Constrained?

Do you spend a lot of time staring at a blank screen or piece of paper? See, plotters map out almost everything—during their writing time—and use all kinds of methods and gadgets and tools to get ready to write. Plotters need to do this, and it’s okay.

IMHO, plotters usually take quite a long time to produce a book, and that’s okay too. Often, there are reams of material that never make it into that book, but could of course spawn another or even an entire series. This is a risk you run, especially if you’re in a hurry for whatever reason.

Another risk is that you end up with a landmine field of plot holes, because you know all these details so well that you fail to adequately explain or show them to your readers. Pantsters run this risk too, for the opposite reason.


“Strike while the iron is hot” could be the pantster’s motto. Write when you feel like it! For myself, if I don’t do it when I’m on fire, so to speak, it won’t get done. Now, that doesn’t mean, usually, that I stop whatever I’m doing and dive right in—often I’m in the middle of something and I’m disciplined enough to finish that first.

And, of course, there’s the “percolating” method by which I can accomplish a number of mindless tasks while my subconscious is working on a book. THAT’s when it all comes together and I can spend hours at my desk and churn out a ton of pages.

Of course, there are times when I have to stop and make a few notes, or line out a few characters, or double-check the timeline of my plot. The difference between a plotter and pantster is that the latter uses tools and notes for a few minutes and gets right back to the story; a pantster doesn’t spend a great deal of time on details.

Which, of course, is that risk mentioned above: plot holes. I maintain, however, that pantsters have the better deal—all professional writers certainly check their work, but I think that pantsters are more likely to notice the gaps because all the details that could be missing weren’t meticulously written down elsewhere.

I could be wrong, of course. I sometimes am . . .

Anyway, who cares? Does it matter? Most writers have one preference or another and that could even change, depending on the WIP. Endless discussion of the method (of which, apparently, I’m guilty, considering this blog post), can only lead to procrastination.

And we all love that.

Do it your way, it doesn’t matter in the long run. Don’t listen to anyone who says you MUST do it a certain way—nope, not even those who say you MUST write every day. Baloney. Just get it done, one way or another.






3 comments on “Writer Wednesday—Plotter, Panster, Who Cares?

  1. The plotter vs. pantser question is a standard part of the generic questions interview for writers on a blog tour. I see red when I see the question because good interviews come from tailoring the questions to each writer rather than making them all answer a set of lame, easy-to-use questions. But since you brought it up, I never know where a book is going when I start it. I guess that means I don’t plan the plot. But that’s just me. I don’t care how others do it and I’m sure most people don’t care how I do it.


  2. Excellent article, Robin–well worth remembering. I suspect it matters little which system is used, as long as the end product is excellence and the best possible use of available writing skills. I, too, for the better part, use ‘pantster’ and ‘percolating’ methodology. Does planning and plotting reduce the feel of spontaneity? I think it does. Why? It suggests ‘fill-in’ writing for outlines, which must at times be forced.


  3. Joyce says:

    It’s exciting to find someone who’s not trying to change my pantser style. I once plotted a novel. The end result veered far off course.



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