I’m a total pantser, I freely admit it. But I yearn to be more of a plotter. Which is to say, I’d love to sit down knowing exactly where I plan to go with the plot and to know all the subplots as well. But most of the time I find that I get so excited to write a scene that I just start writing. I started my current book during Nanowrimo. And after reading Larry Brooke’s Story Engineering, I forced myself to spend the week prior doing a rough outline. Which helped me to at least not be facing a 50k word goal with a completely empty slate. As I set down each morning to work toward my goal, I had no idea who the baddie was until at least day fifteen, which was really exhilarating. It was like I was writing to find out who the bad guy was. Still, I know as a pantser, I have a LOT of editing and revising after I get the first draft done.
A few weeks ago, I had the honor of moderating a table at the Kick Open the Doors event hosted by Michigan Sisters in Crime. I knew my topic would be plotting vs. pantsing because I’m always looking for ways to hone my technique to be as efficient as possible. It was quite an honor, although I admit I was a bit nervous. Luckily, Jan was quick to offer me a glass of wine to calm my nerves. But it was an amazing experience.
While I met mostly pantsers, the common thread at all four sessions was, just write. Don’t get so hung up on your outline that you aren’t writing scenes and don’t get so far down the rabbit hole that you write yourself into a corner.
Sarah Zettle, who has a long and diverse career in the biz, told me that sometimes she’s a plotter and sometimes she’s a pantser. What works for one book might not work for the next and your process will continue to evolve. She shared with me that sometimes she’ll even do what she calls a fast draft, where she quickly writes out a one or two page overview of the plot before digging in to write the bones of the book.
Whether you prefer the comfort of having a road map of where you’re going (plotter) or you enjoy the excitement that comes from going where your characters take you (pantzer) or you fall somewhere in between, just write. Get pen to paper, fingers to keyboard and get your thoughts down. After all, you can’t edit a blank page!
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See Sarah Zettle’s work at