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As forecasted in last week’s blog post, I spent my weekend at Gateway Con (Gateway to Publishing Conference and Convention), hopefully the first of  many more conferences to come here in St. Louis. The event proved a successful venture for authors, readers, publishers, agents, writers, and prospective writers. While performing my duties at the Sisters (and Misters) in Crime table, I had the chance to visit with a variety of folks including like-minded writers both familiar and new to me. I also attended and participated in numerous workshops, and was rewarded with quite a few tips, reminders, and inspirations. One of the workshops involved Plotting vs. Pantsing, where I expressed my views and also developed an additional perspective.

Upon returning to the SinC table, I shared my epiphany (an expanded outlook from my previous post On Writing: Writer Types) with a couple fellow authors I admire: “If you think about it, all writers are pantsers. Maybe not one-hundred percent, but even as plotters flesh-out their plot lines to become completed stories, they all write from the seat of their pants.”

One author understood my point and agreed without hesitation. The other author fervently denied my theory’s possibilities. Obviously she was not, and never will be––or admit to being––a panster. On the other hand, she has conducted many interviews with fellow writers in which eighty-five percent of those authors admitted to being a panster. Go figure. With this incident in mind, let’s further analyze my theory.

When it comes to novel/short story writing,  the plotter establishes a story line via an outline, a plot arc, or a bevy of index cards to decorate each wall in their office in order to calculate where their story starts and the characters involved, how their story and the characters will traverse a bumpy road that ultimately rises to a climax, achieves resolution, and finally draws to THE END. Folks familiar with right and left brain activity (something I mentioned in my Thanks Dad post) understand that calculated, mechanical methodologies such as plotting are an integral part of a left-brainer’s domain.

In contrast, the pantser relies on inspiration and pure creativity. Once inspiration strikes with a plot concept, they (we) sit down at the computer and allow the story and its characters to birth themselves and evolve. In my case, as well as other pantsers I’ve talked with, the characters seem to pull up a chair, introduce themselves, and relate their day-to-day tale. As their story and the plot unfold, a few newcomers to the cast arrive and away we go. Simply put, pantsers allow themselves to get lost in their right-brain’s creative nirvana.

Regarding my assessment that every writer is a pantser, once a plotter has all the details ironed out, although they have a guide to follow, they, too, have to sit down at the computer and bring those plot points to life. This is the phase when plotters must ease into the right brain and allow their creativity to flow. And whether or not they are willing to concede to the notion, this, my friends, is when a plotter becomes a pantser.

Conversely, I also believe there are no Ivory-soap-pure pantser authors. Although the majority of my writing erupts from my imagination, I also understand that a good plot must flow through the basic format for all good story lines. To say that I’ve never been interrupted by Whoa! Wait-a-minute! moments would be a lie. My left-brain stops me as necessary to research facts, and to argue with my characters about plot holes and how to repair them. Most of my writing time, however, relies upon allowing my right-brain and friends to roam free.

So, when it comes to writing, is there a right and wrong? Is one method truly better than the other? I don’t think so. Plotter or Pantser, whichever writing technique works for you, stick with it…but don’t be afraid to admit that you’re a little of both.

Well writers, what do you think?

Leave me a comment, and thanks for dropping by.


One thought on “PLOTTER or PANTSER

  1. As a proud plotter, I will allow for the possibility that I also do some pantsing when necessary. Like when my characters suddenly veer away from my plotline. Who am I to drag them back in? I’d rather go along for the ride.

    I’ve given this a little thought and here’s what I decided. I do a lot of pantsing before I ever sit down to start plotting. The story swims around in my head, and I jot down things long before I ever flesh out the beginning, the hook, the midpoint or the ending. I’ll even write out entire scenes. But before I start earnestly on page 1, there’s an outline on my wall. I know where I’m going.


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