#IWSG: Plotting versus Pantsing

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It’s time again for a blog for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer Support Group. If you’re interested in adding your voice, pop over    InsecureWritersSupportGroupand join. This month, I’d like to address the issue of how much plotting is necessary (or not) before you write that magnum opus.

When you write, are you the type who just sits down to the blank page and start letting the words flow, or do you need a detailed roadmap before you can move? There are those who write best ‘by the seat of the pants,’ and those whose creative juices don’t flow without detailed charts and timelines to guide them. The war between the pantsers and plotters has all the implacability of the Hatfield-McCoy feud.

That, however, is really not necessary, because there is a third way – the middle way. Maybe it’s because I’m Buddhist, but I find the middle ground far more comfortable and comforting than hanging about the extremes. I find that especially so in my writing.

I don’t start with a totally blank sheet, with no idea where my characters are going – but, I also don’t start with a detailed, hour-by-hour timeline.  Generally, I begin with an idea of the story’s main theme, work out a rough chapter breakdown, a character list, and the time frame of the story. Then, I begin to write. The character list and time frame keep me focused, but as I write, other directions pop up, and if interesting, I take them. The aforementioned guides, along with the rough breakdown, helps me to know where I made the turn and help me to get back to my main track. I’ve done this with every book (over 40 now), and it works for me.

My only problem – I can’t think of a label to describe what I do. Any suggestions?

4 thoughts on “#IWSG: Plotting versus Pantsing

    Sarah Foster said:
    August 6, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    I’m usually a pantser, but I like your method as well. I don’t usually start a draft knowing absolutely NOTHING about where it’s going. Maybe you could squish the two words together–plotsing? plantsing? plot-pants? I’m just gonna stop now…

    Sarah Foster
    August IWSG Co-host


      Charles Ray responded:
      August 6, 2014 at 5:03 pm

      Guess I could call myself a plotser, but it sounds a lot like someone who drinks too much, and plantser like someone who believes in UFOs. Maybe I shouldn’t get started down this road.


    Yvonne Hertzberger said:
    August 6, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    I am also in the middle with a decided lean toward pantser. I have a vague idea of major plot scenes and know where I want to end up but if i try to make my characters behave they mutiny and I have to give them their head.


    dvberkom said:
    August 6, 2014 at 11:48 pm

    Plonster? Sounds like monster? 😀 I believe in the middle way, as well (in both instances). Can’t just start writing, but can’t go into detail about plot. It changes every time, anyway!


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