By nature I am a planner, which would leave most who know me to say I’m a plotter. But, to my surprise, I find I’m not when it comes to writing. I get ideas for a story, think them through over a few weeks then forge ahead without an outline. Ideas for plot changes and new characters seem to flow the more I write, and it’s a comfortable spot for me–––to a point. I find within the first three chapters that I am preparing a listing of characters and how they connect to others. Then I start jotting down plot twists for future chapters and organizing the flow, but only in a very rough fashion. So, does that make me a panster with a little bit of plotter thrown in?
Don’t get me wrong, I believe those who are expert at story structure have an edge over writers who only panster it. There is a great deal to be said for plotting out the story, chapter by chapter, before putting a word on paper. Plotters often find spreadsheets, maps, and formal writing tools helpful when organizing all the pieces for each chapter. This approach and the tools used help the author focus and the author knows what is needed each day when they roll out of bed. There’s a game plan. At the same time, is this approach simply too rigid for some writers? I think, yes.
For many writers it is simply best to start writing. There are times when this method can open up creative themes that may have been lost when using a more formal approach to structure. Formalizing structure can stress some authors, create writer’s block, and delay the process of putting ideas on paper. Maybe it is best to just start, then utilize some structural elements as the creative process to starts to unwind.
I don’t have an answer, but after noodling this subject, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a Plotanster – I plot sometimes and pants at other times. There’s just no way around it for me. What about you?
I’d love your feedback and to learn if you believe you are one or the other, or both.