I’ve Been Asked: What’s a Pantser

What’s a pantser?

A pantser is one of the two types of writers. The other type is the ‘plotter.’

Let’s start with plotters. They plan the story in detail before putting a single word on the page. How much detail depends on the author. Some create elaborate graphs, page-long descriptions of every character and every situation and every setting. Others write outlines that aren’t so detailed but that do show where the story is going and how it will get there.

Pantsers, on the other hand, get the flash of an idea, run to their computer before they lose it, plop the seat of their pants to the seat of the chair and start writing and don’t stop until their imagination runs dry, their kids need food, or they are about to die of thirst themselves.

Both have their good points and their bad points.

I started out as a pantser but switched to plotting when I realized that, like most pantsers, I ended up rewriting an entire manuscript many, many times before it became a cohesive story. That’s the problem with pantser writing. If you don’t have the entire story in your mind before you start writing — and keep it there during the process — you can end up going down a lot of wrong paths.

So I became a plotter but I don’t like spending more time plotting than writing, so my ‘plot’ is what’s usually called a synopsis. I write a brief — 2 or 3 sentences at the most for each — description of my characters, story, and the problem the story faces. Then I write another 1 or 2 sentences describing each chapter. More and it’s too detailed to be useful to me because sometimes changes must happen, but, with a synopsis, I at least know how I planned the story and can adapt the changes to fit the story or change the story to fit the changes without too much effort because nothing was so detailed to begin with that it can’t be changed.

So there you have it. Pantseers versus plotters. Choose whichever works for you and feel free to change your way of writing at any time.

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