Kicking off our blog event, this is an excellent post for a definition between plotters (writers who plot) and pantsers (writers who write by the seat of their pants). Read on to get a glimpse of author Samantha Seestrom’s plotting methods and figure out which kind of writer you are!
Allow me to start by saying there are many types of “plotters” and “pantsers”—even going as far as combining both to define a “plantser”—but I’m going to attempt to keep this simple and only explain the two types of writers.
Let me explain the difference between a plotter and pantser. A plotter is simply someone who outlines before they write their story, typically using their left side of the brain which is organized and logical. Contrarily, the pantser is right-brained, using their creative and artistic side. A pantser sits down and writes as they go.
Ask any writer and they’ll tell you a different method or style of writing. No writer is the same. Give one hundred writers a prompt and you’ll receive one hundred different stories. Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser doesn’t matter – it’s the product you produce that counts.
Personally, I find there can be a happy balance between the two. There is no wrong or right way to write a story. But who am I to know? I’ve only sold a few hundred copies of my novels compared to the multi-million best-selling author Stephen King who claims pre-plotting creates a predictable element to a story. A wise man, of inconceivable plot twists keeping his readers on the edge of their seat, advises writers to not plot.
But what? Not plot?
If you’re anything like me, you have everything laid out in front of you when you start writing. Your character’s names, their age, their hair color, eye color, height, build, hobbies, job… I can easily fill a notebook with my notes about ideas, characters, and the plot, but in the end, it doesn’t matter all that much. My characters will only follow the rules for so long before they’re changing the story on me. I’m a firm believer in allowing my characters the freedom to express themselves. Sometimes it’s necessary to sail the sea of unknown.
I admit, my style is chaotic. I’ll start with an adventurous opening, taking my readers by surprise and thrusting them straight into the action. Suddenly, I’ll get an idea and bounce to writing the end of the novel. But hold up, then I’ll attempt to continue from the beginning. When I’m suddenly blocked, I’ll move to another scene later in the story. In order to never sit and get stuck, I take inspiration from Dory, from Disney’s Finding Nemo: I just keep writing. Just keep writing. Just keep writing. I continue writing until the only pieces I have left are scenes that will flow into the next, connecting the novel as whole.
I’m at this point in my third novel that will be titled Blood in the Sand. I’ve completed the story as a whole, but I’m missing several scenes that will unite the book as a larger picture. Am I chaotic? Yes, but I get the job done.
Typically, a plotter tends to have a more plot-driven story. Every single scene has been meticulously placed there for a reason and is only building the story. It’s claimed that plotters are less likely to become a victim of writer’s block, but even as much as I plot and plan, I still find myself to be blocked during the writing process. Sometimes the things I’ve plotted don’t work with the novel no matter how hard I try to make them fit, so this is where my pantser side comes to the rescue.
For example, I wrote thousands of words and several chapters of my first book Surrender Your Soul before deciding the plot I had planned out didn’t work with my idea. Once I changed the main character’s love interest and followed a darker writing path, the words didn’t stop flowing. In fact, I completed about seventy-thousand words and finished the manuscript within thirty days.
Do I usually have fewer plot holes because I plot first? Sure. I create most of the twists in my plotting sessions, but often times my characters take me by surprise and throw me off guard. This is a quality I’m thankful for during my novel writing process.
A pantser’s mind is a blank canvas only waiting to be painted with beautiful colors. Will their masterpiece be a sunrise over the ocean or a stormy summer night? They don’t know. With a pantser, the fictional characters take over and propel the story creating a character-driven adventure. Pantser’s claim to be a more creative writer while plotter’s stories may seem lifeless.
If you’re a plotter, don’t be scared of Mr. King’s words. Plenty of shocking surprises can be created during the plotting process along with an intriguing idea for a story. If you’re a pantser, I applaud you. I’m unable to sit down with a blank mind and create a story from thin air.
As much as I attempt to be organized and plot every single detail out, my brain won’t be restricted. My characters will live their own lives without being told what to do for every moment of the journey. Even though I do have many pantser qualities, I have to define myself more on the plotter side. My stories are too messy unless I have all of my notes, plots, and character details in front of me.
So ask yourself, who are you?
Challenge point: Using both aforementioned methods, use this prompt to either create a miniature plotline (plotters), or write a page without thinking first (pantser). Share what you come up with and tag me (@samanthawritesbooks) in an Instagram post!
Samantha Seestrom has written and published two novels (Surrender Your Soul, Ashes of the Sea) and is currently working on her third book (Blood in the Sand)in her mermaid adventure series titled “Breathers.”
When she’s not writing, you can find her working with her elementary students as she uses her imagination to help them learn. Samantha lives in Minnesota, but is always dreaming of the ocean. She’s an avid lover of mermaids, Australian accents, and a boy with a dog named Bandit.
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