Plotting Vs Pantsing

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Do you plot or pants your novel?

There are two schools of thought on how to write a novel.

Plotters: outline their novel. They plan it out.

Pantsers: Fly by the seat of their pants. They write the novel as it comes to them.

There are pros and cons to both.

Pantsers: the author is basically telling themselves the story as they write it. It's more exciting to write the story this way because you don't know what's going to happen next!

Plotters: They know where the story is going. There are no surprises.

I have a writer friend that is a dedicated pantser. She absolutely hates outlining a story because then she looses all interest in it because she knows what is going to happen.

However, she also stares at blank pages a lot because she doesn't know what's going to happen. She also has to rewrite a fair amount because she needs to clarify things that happened earlier and set up plot points that she made up on the fly.

I am personally a plotter. I LOVE having an outline. Sometimes, I'll basically make a first draft out of an outline. (I've written 20 page outlines…)

An example of a very detailed outline
An example of a very detailed outline

However, I also use the chapter by chapter outline as well. I write down the 30ish chapter points so I know where my story is going.

An example of a chapter by chapter outline
A chapter by chapter outline.

I like this method because I don't get lost. I always know what is going to happen next and I can write in the details needed to make it happen. My editing time is a lot less because I don't have to backtrack and fix things. I also don't stare at blank pages as much. (I still stare at them, but at least it's not because I don't know what I'm supposed to be writing about)

I also know someone that uses the “note-card” method. She writes down each big important scene on a note-card. Then she sticks them to her wall for a rough guideline of where she needs to go. It's not 20 pages of detailed outline, or even a chapter by chapter outline, but just a broad path of what needs to happen next.

As with all writing, find what works best for you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a pantser– as long as it is working. If you are spending all your time staring at a blank page, make a note-card outline. Make it work for you.