Prior to starting the Windhollows book series, I had never heard the term pantser or plotter. I kept hearing the terms in my travels and originally assumed the former was bad and the latter was good. This turned out not to be the case.
To start, a pantser is one who writes “by the seat of their pants.” They just start writing and see where the story and character development goes. A plotter is much more structured. They use outlines and typically figure out the beginning, middle, and end. And then you have people who are hybrids – those who use a mixture of both.
I started as a pantser because there was far more excitement to just go with the flow and see where my imagination took me. Outlines felt rigid and took the fun out of writing – at least for me. Although flying by the seat of my pants, I always had the main and secondary plot lines in my head. At the completion of book 3, Windhollow and the Axe Breaker, my thoughts on approach changed. You see, I have many plot lines that could be considered the main plots – those that are a big deal. I also have anywhere from twenty to forty smaller plot lines that are more character specific and less scale but nonetheless important. How was I going to ensure that I didn’t forgot to tie up loose ends and complete plot lines?
The answer was found in becoming a plotter.
Don’t worry fellow pantsers. I didn’t abandon the pantser ship. Now, instead of just writing, I work with an outline that covers the final three (or more) books in the series. I really don’t know how many more books it will take. It just depends on the pantser in me.
Here’s how my hybrid approach works.
With the upcoming book 4, Hammer’s Hollow, I have the first half of the book outlined. Just last night I finished chapter one and have started chapter two. As the mood strikes me, and as necessity dictates, I’ll expand on the outline as I write.
I find this serves two purposes. First, by going the pantser route I can keep my brain in writing mode. Consistent writing exercise is important to my budding writing endeavors. Second, by embracing the world of plotters, I can rest easier knowing there’s a plan. That plan might change daily or weekly, but it’s enough structure to keep things going.
Are you a pantser or a plotter? Maybe something in between?
Here’s a great link to learn more.