Today begins a new blog series! We’re going to be talking about the different writers: pantsers (those who write without an outline), plotters (those who outline), and plantsers (an interesting mix of both pantsers and plotters).
Our first post is about pantsers, written by my friend Rebecca Reed! Before we get into the actual post, she made the perfect meme for this series!
Rebecca Reed is a former jockey and current Spanish teacher, track coach, drama director, and lover of God, animals, music, travel, and all things word-related. She lives in rural Indiana with her husband, Brad, Ziva (her huge, fruit-loving dog), and a multitude of cats, rabbits, and cows. She has 6 children (2 of whom are exchange students from Ukraine), and 2 grandchildren. Occasionally, athletes will adopt her as their “track mom.” She is addicted to audiobooks, is genuinely weird at times, firmly believes that words have power, and is blessed to have been given the gift of using them to communicate in multiple languages, and create stories designed to break chains and encourage positive choices.
I am a new writer. No. That’s not quite accurate. I am a long-time writer new to the “writing for publication” world. When I first felt God calling me to do more with my writing than simply write, I thought I knew what I was doing. Now that I’ve been at this for about a year, I realize I know next to nothing. That said, I am defining the term “pantser” as it applies to the way I write. Others, more experienced than me, may have a different bent to the definition, but this is how I see it.
A “pantser,” or “seat of the pants” writer, is a writer who begins a story or novel with little planning. Some people begin with a character, and build the story around her. Others begin with a setting or perhaps the basic idea for a plot. What would happen if a giant gorilla invaded New York City? Still others will plan the basic plot with a concise outline or map, write out details about their characters, maybe even plan out a small character arc. But when they actually begin the story, the characters take on a life of their own and the plot may take a complete left turn. That’s okay with a pantser.
Pantsers enjoy the pure thrill of sitting down to a blank computer screen and filling it with words the characters dictate. They may feel that an outline limits the flexibility and spontaneity they value. My first novel was written for a contest. I had never been trained on how to write a novel, so I did not intentionally sit down one day and decide I would write it as a pantser. I wrote that way because I didn’t know any other way.
Since then, I have discovered my ideal style may be that of a “plantser,” which is a hybrid between the true pantser who never outlines or writes out their ideas ahead of time, and a “plotter,” who plans each scene (or at least each major scene) prior to writing the first word.
My second novel began in the pantser manner, but not knowing the ending, created a really long and meandering saggy middle. I began to jot down ideas for scenes that would get me to my desired ending. I’ve tried to follow those ideas, but find that my characters refuse to go the route I’m asking them to take. I guess that means, at least for the time being, I remain a pantser.
The true joy of a pantser is that freedom to go wherever the words take you. Many of my best scenes have been ones I could never have foreseen when first conceptualizing the story and the characters. Characters are living beings inside a pantser’s head, and they do, indeed, take over at times. Yes, many times, a pantser is required to go back and rewrite, revise and edit more than a plotter, but it is up to you as a writer to decide whether you wish to spend the time up front in plotting or after the first draft in revising. In my opinion, a mix of the two is probably the most effective, and while I may become a plantser, it is unlikely I will ever become a plotter.
To find out more about Rebecca’s writing journey or her thoughts on other topics visit https://rebeccareedwrites.com/