If you’ve been scouting around for some novel writing tips online, you may have come across a couple of plotter vs pantser articles. For those who are unfamiliar with these terms, allow me to explain it in a few words. Basically, a plotter is a writer who prefers to outline the most parts of the story before doing the actual writing. Meanwhile, a pantser is someone who relies on their intuitive side to make plot decisions. They just write as they go believing that fate (and a little bit of research) will lead them to the right path sooner or later.
Although both methods have their pros and cons, there are writers who claim that their writing process is better than the other… And I think it’s a total waste of time. After reading a few articles or so, you’ll notice that some writing experts will even tell you that it’s important to identify yourself as a plotter or pantser – but does it really have to matter whether you are one or the other? Couldn’t it be possible that you are a little bit of each?
Plotter vs Pantser: What’s The Big Deal?
If you’ve been struggling to find out which of the two you really are, it might be because you are a hybrid. And yes, I think that there is such a thing as being both a plotter and pantser… Or a “plantser” if you wish to call yourself that.
Purist writers might give me a little bit of hate for this, but I truly believe that there is no single correct rule to how a writer should write. The only right method available is one that works for you as a writer. What may work for other writers might not necessarily be effective for you and vice versa. And just because it didn’t work out for you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not a good piece of writing advice; it just means that it is not compatible to how you write.
Identifying Your Writing Habits Between Plotter vs Pantser
I may be dissing the idea of plotter vs pantser since the beginning of this blog entry, but I don’t think that it is completely useless. As writers, knowing how we write and identifying what keeps us sane and motivated can be very beneficial.
We all know how important it is for writers to discover more about themselves. It is one way for them to find and use their own voice. By checking whether you lean towards being a plotter or pantser can help you get to know yourself a bit more. You get to learn where your strengths and weaknesses are and how you will be able to overcome them.
Create Your Own Plantser Profile
Some of you may not agree but I think all of us are plantsers. There will be moments when you enjoy planning your stories from start to finish. And there will also be times when a bit of spontaneity is required. Instead of taking a plotter vs plantser quiz to identify which side you’re on, why not create a personalized profile? Because let’s face it – those quizzes aren’t 100% accurate.
To create your very own plantser profile, simply list down areas of your story where you would like to do more in-depth planning and research. At the same time, figure out areas where you could afford some room for impromptu writing. In my case, I love to plan both the beginning and end of a story. I also need to complete detailed profiles of my cast of characters before writing.
Oftentimes, I also like to outline the conflicts of my story as well but recently, I found it a lot more fun and challenging to just wing it and see how the story would naturally unfold.
Why Being A Plotter Or Pantser Shouldn’t Really Matter
I believe that knowing our plotter and pantser tendencies is a great tool to help us discover our writing habits. But I also think that it is a waste of time to focus on finding a label for ourselves. Instead of busying ourselves with such trivial things, writers should just do the one thing they need to do and that is to write.
So the next time a writer from the “enemy’s side” comes up to you to explain how being a plotter or pantser is the best, below are some statements you can use to rebut their arguments.
There Are Lessons To Be Learned From Both Sides
As I’ve mentioned earlier, both plotters and pantsers have their good and bad sides. Plotters are more likely to be well-organized, they plan very well and take notice of even the smallest details. Pantsers, on the other hand, are flexible writers. They are resourceful, they are creative and can work things out with new ideas as they come.
I honestly think that both sides complement each other very well. And so if you are a plotter just like me, I highly recommend that you learn a little thing or two from a pantser. They often give very good advice on how to tackle our weaknesses. After all, it seems that their strengths are oftentimes our weaknesses.
We Are All Just Humans
Being human, we are constantly changing, always growing and shifting towards new things. And as writers, it is so important to be curious and to oftentimes take risks. Our little adventures fuel our imagination, allowing us more creativity for our stories. Plenty of people in the creative field oftentimes use different methods to sharpen their creativity. For writers, it’s almost always about being open to different ideas and opinions.
And it’s not just our work that could benefit from a change. Our writing process also needs a little bit of an update once in a while. As we hone our writing skills, we sometimes realize that old techniques and strategies don’t serve us anymore. It’s a sign that we must move on to try different things so that we can grow and tackle bigger things as a writer.
If you were once a pantser, it doesn’t mean that you need to stay a pantser for the rest of your writing career. You are free to experiment whether or not some plotter habits work for you. Changing the way we write is all part of the writing process.
You Can Always Mix Things Up
If you’ve used the Plantser Profile Exercise I’ve provided above, you’ve probably come to realize that it is possible to have the best of both worlds. Being part-plotter and part-pantser can actually make you invincible. Since both sides have their own weaknesses why not borrow a few tricks of the trade from both plotters and pantsers? Having a personalized special technique just proves how much you know about yourself as a writer.
The great thing about being a plantser is that you can always change things up as you develop your writing skills. There are no set of rules or conditions that tell you what you are and what you aren’t.
Authors Have Different Writing Strategies
The number one reason why categorizing yourself as a plotter or a pantser doesn’t work is because no one is a 100% plotter or pantser. Because we have different writing habits and strategies, it is difficult to fit ourselves into just one type. The ideal plotter and pantser are cookie-cutter examples of writers. They rarely exist and if they do, I highly doubt that it is a healthy way to write. We must always allow ourselves to be free and to have fun with writing.
Sadly, some writers who take these labels seriously feel pressured to live up to their name. If they are not performing as expected, they begin to lose confidence and question whether or not they are good writers. At the end of the day, all we have to do is to find a way to put our work together. It often doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as you reach the destination.
Sticking To One Puts You In A Box
Aside from feeling pressured to keep up with expectations, writers who take these labels too seriously rob themselves of the opportunity to discover new things. Sometime in your writing career, you will inevitably get into a rut – like a Writer’s Block for example. And if some recommended tips don’t work out for you, the reason why you find it difficult to write could lie in the fact that you do not allow yourself to try new things.
When you stick a plotter or pantser label to yourself, you are unconsciously putting yourself in a box. While it’s cool to find someone who has similar writing habits as you, they won’t help you find a solution to solve your problems. Ironically, it takes a person with a different perspective to help you look at the bigger picture.
I’ve considered myself as a plotter for such a long time. Recently, I realized that some pantser habits help me become a better writer. How about you? Did you ever call yourself a plotter or pantser? What writing habits do you wish to have in order to improve your writing? Let me know in the comments below.