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Are you a plotter or a panster?

Writers come in different shapes and forms. This is one of the things that makes writing exciting and the world of literature even more interesting. Although writers have their own identities, a lot of people believe that all writers can fit into one of two categories:

a plotter or a panster

Does this mean anything for your writing? Absolutely not, but a little self-awareness might go a long way and help you identify yourself as a writer. It might also help you to refine your process and work out a way to write that works better for you.

So, are you a plotter or a panster?

A Plotter is a writer who plans their story before writing it. This could be for anything whether you're writing a novel or even a letter. Before getting started they will create a plan, an outline of some start, plan the characters, storyline etc. This could include brainstorming, setting the foundations to your story, creating an outline, setting a structure and developing subplots. A plotter will outline their story and then go through and add detail before starting to write.

The Pros of being a plotter:

  • Following a structure means there's less of a chance of 'getting stuck' in the writing stages

  • It's a quicker and more efficient way when you actually start writing

  • It's usually a more structured manuscript, therefore making the first edit a lot easier.

Cons of being a plotter:

  • Some writers may find it confining them and their story

  • If you decide to make a change, it may result in you having to revisit the planning stages

  • The planning stage can become very time-consuming, especially for the early stages of a book

A Panster is someone who just starts writing. Sure they will have some kind of idea of what they're writing and potentially where they want to go. But the majority of the story will come out as they write. A lot of the time this can bring out an unexpected outcome for the author. A panster may spend more time freewriting and let the characters take charge. It will involve a lot of rereading as you write, therefore it's essential for pansters to stay focused, but also have keep in mind about an ending for your writing to lead up to. A lot of the time it can be hard to finish a book when writing as a panster, therefore it can take quite a lot of discipline.

The Pros of being a panster:

  • More freedom and less restriction on where the story is going

  • There's more flexibility when it comes to changing the plan or direction the story is going in

  • The writer can explore and start the story without knowing all the answers, this can add an extremely exciting element

Cons of being a panster:

  • More chance of suffering from writer's block when you don't know where your story is heading

  • You may spend a lot of time writing and rewriting parts

  • With less direction, you're more likely to give up

  • It can be much harder to edit that first draft as things will be a lot less organised

Whether you're a plotter or a panster is a very big topic of debate in the writer community. But while we are here, let's throw something else into the ring. There is a middle ground in some writer's eyes:

a planster

A planster, is an author, who, as you might have guessed, is a combination of planner and pantser. They will start off with an intial idea and complete some planning and details before they start the writing process. They may even start writing and revisit the planning stage as they go. This is a great middle ground if you prefer to have a plan, but find that while you're writing you change your mind or enjoy freewriting as a technique.

The question is can you choose which one you want to be? Some people may disagree with me on this, but I believe that you can. Writing is a process that works differently for everyone. Even if two writers were plotters, I can guarantee there would be differences between their processes still. From my experience, a lot of the time with writing you have to be extremely disciplined, so you probably could train yourself into which one you prefer. So consider all the options and try some different things out.

So what do you think? Are you a plotter or a panster?


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