A plotting-pantser? Wait. A pantsing-plotter?

I recently came across an article by Glen C. Strathy which suggests using index cards to improve your book planning.  At first, I was a bit apprehensive, but I’m not sure if that was the planning part or the writing out of index cards.  If you’ve followed my blog, you know that I’m generally a “panster.”  I like to write without knowing what’s going to happen chapter to chapter and scene to scene of my novels.  I have a general knowledge and a few key scenes that I know I want to write, but that’s it.  Usually.

Are you a plotter, panster or plotting-panster?

My current WIP is different.  It needs special care and attention.  I can’t pants my way through this one, mostly.  So, I decided that I was going to try the whole “plotter” thing.  I sat down and plotted out my first three chapters which also are written.  (That in itself feels like an accomplishment to me!)  I now have chapters 4 and 5 almost figured out.

I don’t know if I like outlining really.  It’s still too early in the game to tell.  Actually, what I’ve decided is that I’m more of a plotting-pantser.  I know.  How can one be both?  Well, a lot of people seem to do both.  Some novels make you into a pantser.  Some make you into a plotter.  And then, I like to plot out some of one novel and pants out the rest.

Okay, so let’s go back to the index cards.  I had plans of plotting out my entire novel and making an outline when I came across this article.  I thought, “Hey.  That’s not too bad of an idea.”  So, I tried it.  It didn’t hurt me, and really, it did kind of help.  I feel like I’m back in school working on a research paper though.  Anyway, what I would do was plan out one chapter and then write it.  Of course, there were many changes that derived from the original outline, but it worked out.  And it happened the same way with the other two chapters.  So, in fact, I was planning and pantsing at the same time.  (It sounds more complicated than it really is.)

So, I’m not saying one way is better than the other.  And there’s a huge debate in the writing community about planning and pantsing and which one is better.  My opinion has always been and always will be that you should write however works best for you.  And again, it’s whatever the novel you’re working on needs too.  Novels are like kids.  They each have a different personality and need a certain type of attention.  What works for one novel may not work for the next.

The nieces helping Auntie Em outline her novel

It doesn’t really matter if you’re a plotter or pantser.  What matters in the end is that the novel/story gets written the best it can.

Find what works best for you.  And if you’re a plotter, panster or plotting-panster take it as it is and write the way you’re most comfortable with.

How do you write?  Which are you?  What are your arguments for each side?


15 thoughts on “A plotting-pantser? Wait. A pantsing-plotter?

  1. Firslt, let me just say your nieces are adorable. Soooo adorable.

    On to the question: I’m a pantser, but am trying to incorporate some planning into things. I have a tendency to forget where I was going when I pants it completely. But, on the other hand, too much planning leaves me feeling bored and listless when I write. So a planning pantser, I guess.


    1. Thank you! I think they are too, but I’m a little biased, I’m sure! 🙂

      And, I like the sound of a planning pantser. I get bored with that too. I like writing down what I want to happen and then just go with it and see where I end up.

      Thanks for commenting!


  2. Soooo…. you plotted out the chapters you already wrote? That’s like making a to-do list and putting on things you did and crossing them off. I love it!

    Actually, I did the same. As I was revising my last novel, I did a scene index in an Excel spreadsheet, which I suppose is an after-the-fact outline.

    I’m a bit superstitious now about outlines. I’ve written 3 novels, and none of them were outlined. Another 2, I outlined and wrote opening chapters, but didn’t finish. I don’t know if the outlining ruined my excitement about it, or if it was just a fluke.

    I guess I have to follow through on an outline so I can find out which method is better. Which I will do, this weekend, for the 3 Day Novel Contest. Expect a full report! (Once I recover.)


    1. Well, it worked for my morale! haha I’m plotting out new chapters now, non-written ones of course, to see how it’ll work for me.

      I wish you luck on your 3 day contest. And I can’t wait to read about it. And yes, you will definitely have to rest up after that one! I also look forward to hearing which method works better for you.

      I usually try the outlining first, then pants it, and then outline, and then just pants it again. I still don’t know which works best except that I do both and get the job done.


      1. I had a friend who lives in Sheffield ask me what I meant by “pantsing” my way through a novel, and I had to explain. But he never explained what he would call it. 😉 So, it’s a good question. lol I’ll have to ask him.


  3. Each book sets its own rules and procedures. My first (A Sane Woman) is a mystery, so it was pretty carefully planned, and quite short. The second (U-town) was a pantser extravaganza, and it’s 170,000 words. So, no more all-out pantsing for me (that’s a lot of words and I’m not as young as I used to be 🙂 ).

    I did get more confident writing mysteries later on, with practice, and now I’m quite comfortable starting one with no idea of the victim, the criminal, or even the crime. But with my WIP (not a mystery) I have a rough idea where I’m going.


    1. “Each book sets its own rules and procedures.” I couldn’t agree more. I work differently with each novel or short story. I’m just worried with getting it done and getting it done, hopefully, correctly.

      I finished A Sane Woman. I have to say. I NEVER saw the ending coming. It was brilliantly written, and I enjoyed it tremendously.


      1. You’re welcome!

        Yes of course! I’d be glad for you to quote it on your blog. You can either link it or not. It honestly doesn’t matter to me and is completely up to you. I know how important reviews and quotes like that can be for a novel or story. So please. Use it. 🙂


  4. I have only recently stepped into the world of outlining and I am loving it (though I will confess I didn’t do it by hand on index cards!). Most of all I love that the program I am using (storybook) not only has all my chapters listed in one place, but I also have info on my characters appearances and locations there as well, which has saved me hours in searching back through my document to recall whether Lucy from early on in the book had red hair or blonde 🙂


    1. I tried Storybook, and I have to say that it’s great for keeping my characters together. Because I’m like you. I have a hard time remembering what my earlier characters look like! And oddly enough, I have a character named Lucy with red hair in my current WIP. Odd coincidence. 😉


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