Plotter or pantser?

Are you a plotter or pantser? Actually, I believe there are several categories between pure-plotter and total pantser. 

First, let’s talk about Pantsers.

Some people are TPs–Total Pantsers. They write by the seat of their pants. They know some of their characters and the story idea–that’s it! These people usually have to throw away the first several chapters, but they have to write them to find out where they’re going and who their characters really are. The story is a total surprise, coming to them as they write.

Then there are KPs–Kinda Pantsers. They know the characters fairly well, the story idea, maybe a turning point or two, and the ending. In other words, they have the edges, then they fill in the rest with sheer imagination and will power.

Last in my line up, there’s FPs. Fake Pantsers. They have the book plotted, but keep it all inside their heads. These brainiacs enjoy flaunting their superior skills, and laugh at the rest of us as we struggle along.

Most Pantsers say they’d get bored if they knew everything that was going to happen before they wrote it.

On the other side we have the Plotters.

Most Plotters believe they’d waste too much time finding their way to the end if they didn’t plot.

First are the BPs. Barely Plotters. They know the characters, the story arc, the ending. They even fill in the turning points before they start the story. The rest is discovered as they go along. (Sounds a lot like a KP, doesn’t it?)

Then there are RPs. Real Plotters. They do all of the above before they start the story, write a selling synopsis, then they do a chapter-by-chapter, three scenes to a chapter outline. They know exactly where they’re going and how they’re going to get there. My heroes! (Sometimes RP’s do this don’t write it out. They just keep it in their heads. Wow!)

The use of charts, grafts and color-coded postit notes is not unusual with these people.

Final category is HP–Heavy Plotter. They write an indepth synopsis that goes on for 80 to 100 pages. (Suz Brockmann says it’s either a long synopsis or a very short first draft. She’s not sure which.) These people know their story before they begin chapter one. They know what’s going to happen at any point of the story because it’s already there, in the synopsis.

So what kind are you? I’m a KP, but an RP wannabe. I’d love to know what’s going to happen in chapter fourteen before I start chapter one. But to be honest, I don’t even know there’s going to be a chapter fourteen before I start the first one.

And until I’m living the lives of my characters, I can’t know what’s going to happen.

In TO SCHOOL A COWBOY, I thought the end was going to come when Boone found out the real truth about Julia’s name change after kidnapping a child in her old school. But that was before I inside Boone’s head. He’s an uber honorable man. He does what’s right, no matter how much it hurts him to do it.

As school board president, he had to take it to the board. Even though he loved Julia and wanted to protect her. It was his sworn duty to protect the children of the school district first.

I’d plotted the book before I started writing (or thought I had.) But Boone took the story’s ending away from me. I had to do it his way, and until I got to that point of the book, I didn’t know what his way would be.

How do you plot that?

5 Responses to “Plotter or pantser?”

  1. I’m a KP, too, and I’d like to be any kind of plotter. I always mean to be. Sometimes I even carefully plot the whole book. But I just don’t seem to have it in me to STICK to the plot.

    Still, I think the “bad” plot I usually write helps somewhat. At least I know that I’m trying to do the thing correctly. And I agree, with your statement that if you’re a pantser you have to do a lot of rewriting.

    I loved this article.
    Jackie King

  2. I’m mostly a pantser. I wish I could be a plotter sometimes, since I’m also a major worrier and I always get to a point in the story where I start freaking out because I don’t know what’s going to happen yet. I’ve tried plotting, though, and I always deviate so heavily that it seems pointless. Usually the deviations make for a better story, though.

  3. I think I qualify as a BP with RP tendencies. I do have a pretty good idea where the story is going, and I write a general synopsis and chapter outline before I start. I also do charts and timelines and stuff, but that is mostly because I am too scatterbrained to keep up with the timing of things in my head. But I like the characters to speak to me, and if one of them says that the plot isn’t working out, then I tend to listen, and take it in whatever direction will work. It would be boring to have everything set in stone before starting!

  4. Jackie,
    I don’t think it’s necessary to stay with the plot, do you? If the new twists make it a better read (or your character(s) won’t let you stick) it’s better to be flexible enough to change.
    It’s certainly worked for you so far.
    Glad you like the article.

  5. Suzanne,
    I don’t know that anyone sets it in stone–that would be almost too anal to be able to write the thing–but some very successful writers have the whole ‘really short first draft’ thing down. The process might not be the most exciting way to write, but the spending-the-money-part probably makes up for it.

    The one hard and fast rule I know about plotting is . . . do whatever works best for you.


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