Are Pantsers Just Plotters in Disguise?

Ihe

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The debate between these two writing styles often feels like we're talking about qualitative differences that set them part, but in the end, story structuring is similar in both types of stories despite the different process (I don't know about others, but I can seldom tell if a story of publishable standards was pantsed or plotted).

I read an argument that goes like this: while plotters plan out their structure and major plot points, pantsers get to the same structuring conclusions but in a less efficient manner--through 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th drafts, looking for that which the plotter had from the beginning, until the structure attains an acceptable standard.

This makes sense to me. Is this simplifying the issue too much? Not to be mean, but the logical conclusion of this theory is that pantsers are simply less efficient writers [bracing for impact :giggle:].
 
I consider my self a pantser. I simply just make the characters. Plan the beginning or major events and if I'm lucky I have the end already thought up, and I run with it. By the first draft everything is pretty concrete. The journey is established it's just doing that time consuming finicky crap that makes you want to bash your head against your desk until you have a forced nap time that causes me pain.

I sometimes get stuck at points. But so do the most extreme plotters who set up those lovely white boards that look like they're trying to solve a murder, or a massive governmental conspiracy theory. Only I've seen a lot of people struggle with when the story leaves the trail, and they go BUT NO WE MUST BE HERE BY 1:30 the SCHEDULE MANDATES IT!


While my characters are running off into the woods leaving me to only to shrug and be curious about exactly how this ends up-- and of course carrying a water bottle if they get too frisky.

I tend to go with the flow and some of the best development comes from the complete and total lack of structure. As I say "It's the journey!" :X3:

I personally like books if its apparent theres no structure and the characters being thrown into a chaotic mixture of what is life. Granted I tend to enjoy very old french books turn of the century books and one of my favourite books literally involve the people last minute stealing a train!:eek:

There's many times I've kicked things aside on my darted road map. Because it just wasn't requited to stop for ice-cream at this point.

I go with the flow and by many accounts I am winging it, but lets be honest. How much control do you really have over your life?:p
 
The debate between these two writing styles often feels like we're talking about qualitative differences that set them part, but in the end, story structuring is similar in both types of stories despite the different process (I don't know about others, but I can seldom tell if a story of publishable standards was pantsed or plotted).

I read an argument that goes like this: while plotters plan out their structure and major plot points, pantsers get to the same structuring conclusions but in a less efficient manner--through 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th drafts, looking for that which the plotter had from the beginning, until the structure attains an acceptable standard.

This makes sense to me. Is this simplifying the issue too much? Not to be mean, but the logical conclusion of this theory is that pantsers are simply less efficient writers [bracing for impact :giggle:].

Is efficiency how we judge writing?

But on another note, maybe plotters are terrible time wasters who spend too much time planning :D

I say that a little tongue in cheekly, but only a little. Teaching creative writers, I come across more plotters who never get to the writing than pantsters, because there is always something else to be planned, or pulled out, or built...

Ao long as it works, who cares? And as a pantster who manages a novel mostly every 9 months or so, I don't find inefficiency a problem ;)
 
Just imagine how many novels you could turn out in nine months if you were efficient, Jo! :D

No, I don't see pantsing as inefficient -- for me, it's not a matter of writing chaos and then going back to find the order. I don't tend to need multiple drafts in order to bring structure; the structure works itself out as I write, and the editing that I do is more to add to the description, bring out the emotions, and play with the language.
 
<refuses to use the word p***sers>

As a discovery writer <there, that's better>/planner hybrid I would say that it's probably all on a spectrum. I know that the one time I plotted a story fully, I wrote maybe 30K before giving it up as a lost cause because I was so unshakeably bored.

I think when it comes down to it, we're all getting to the same end result, just by different roads and Jo makes a good point about time management; plotters waste time before, perhaps, discovery writers, during. Personally I like the idea of writing off the cuff and then there is a point in time when all the ideas and characters begin to coalesce into a tipping point of critical mass, and then it's boom...off we go.

Isn't it the case, though, that sometimes, you're just bimbling about, doing your business and then something piques your interest and then there's that Big Bang of inspiration and you can often write the entire thing (in flash, or shorts) like that? Which is odd, because that's usually how both my challenge entries (75 and 300) manifest, but in the 75 I plan it, whereas in the 300, more often than not it comes as a fully formed story.

It's all about finding what works for you; if it has a good beat and you can dance to it, then go for it.

pH
 
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I consider myself a pantser, but in truth I heavily plot in my mind, developing stories in that vast empty space like movies. I 'watch' them over and over again as the scenes and details develop and write directly from those 'viewings.'

In the past, when I actually wrote notes and outlines, I felt psychologically compelled to follow them and found it almost impossible to be spontaneous.

As Phyrebrat says, it all about finding your own method. I've yet to meet a reader who cares at all how a writer produced a finished novel or story.
 
I read an argument that goes like this: while plotters plan out their structure and major plot points, pantsers get to the same structuring conclusions but in a less efficient manner--through 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th drafts, looking for that which the plotter had from the beginning, until the structure attains an acceptable standard.

For me, that was true 6 or 7 years ago. These days I find the first draft is usually structurally about right. I may add a chapter, take one away or swap a couple around but of my 47 chapters in Black's Nest nearly all remained in the same order that I wrote them. The changes I am making this year are purely because it's a year on and technology in 2017 has added an angle I want to get in there. Sun, Seagulls and Selkies looks like being the same - I'm halfway through and whilst I have some tweaks to make none of them are major. My detective story Girls on the Rise has just needed an edit.

Whether or not I had planned I would still do a complete rewrite because it brings in levels and depths that can't happen until I've fully understood the characters, their setting etc Even with a detailed plan some of these details wouldn't come until the writing.

I don't plan at all (periodically I may write a few ideas on paper for future scenes) but I usually start with a character and a setting then go from there. The one time I did plan it was a disaster. I spent 3 weeks slavishly working out characters and story only to have it change in the first fifty words. By the end of the first chapter, it was unrecognisable.

Like Jo says the way we write is unimportant. The important thing is are we happy with what we're doing.

The one thing I have learned as a writer is that keeping the joy and fun intact is so important. When I lost that I stopped writing.

I have 11 (written in 8 years) novels on my hard drive which I have yet to do anything with for a variety of reasons so I'm not unproductive.
 
I consider myself a pantser, but in truth I heavily plot in my mind

Just to play devil's advocate... :D Don't most pantsers, like Steve said, have a rough outline in their head, even if it's not all meticulously laid out on paper? Or at least a rough idea of where your story is heading? Is there such a thing as true pantsing when it comes to writing a novel? (Perhaps for a short story...) Just a thought! Sorry, will go away now...
 
Just to play devil's advocate... :D Don't most pantsers, like Steve said, have a rough outline in their head, even if it's not all meticulously laid out on paper? Or at least a rough idea of where your story is heading? Is there such a thing as true pantsing when it comes to writing a novel? (Perhaps for a short story...) Just a thought! Sorry, will go away now...
Yessssssss. I was stuck last night. I chatted with my patient other half. I now have my plot. It consist of about 100 words but it's still The Plot
 
yeah, I've become more of a plotter (still not much of one by some people's standards I'm sure), but my new thing Red Creek, was just an idea, and as I go, I set upcoming plot points to hit in my head, and it grows that way, so while I'm 'pantsing' the novel, I do have an outline, know where I'm going, and mostly have an idea of how I'm getting there. 30K in and it's feeling good, so who am I to argue with either way of doing it.
 
Just to play devil's advocate... :D Don't most pantsers, like Steve said, have a rough outline in their head, even if it's not all meticulously laid out on paper? Or at least a rough idea of where your story is heading? Is there such a thing as true pantsing when it comes to writing a novel? (Perhaps for a short story...) Just a thought! Sorry, will go away now...

It generally takes about 20,000 words before I basic idea of where the story might go. Black's Nest got to 72,000 words and the ending still caught me by surprise. I've been a little gutted having to share my synopsis for crit because I've been the only person who knew the ending for the past year and I kind of liked that ;)
 
Just to play devil's advocate... :D Don't most pantsers, like Steve said, have a rough outline in their head, even if it's not all meticulously laid out on paper? Or at least a rough idea of where your story is heading? Is there such a thing as true pantsing when it comes to writing a novel? (Perhaps for a short story...) Just a thought! Sorry, will go away now...

I have a story-line; beginning, some middle, and ending in mind (I rarely write an outline out, anymore), but that's about it.
 
I don't plot at all. It's not how I see story. For me, everything starts with an image, a setting and a character; I go from that point and don't stop until the end.

Even the outlining for discovery writer's post I shared on here and attempted didn't work for me, really.

I write Novella's and short stories. No need to plot. My main focus is character experience., theme and setting.

v
 
Is efficiency how we judge writing?
I hope not, lest I be judged too harshly...:D
But on another note, maybe plotters are terrible time wasters who spend too much time planning :D
Yeah, I was thinking about that. Maybe plotters are just really obsessive pantsers.
I personally like books if its apparent theres no structure and the characters being thrown into a chaotic mixture of what is life.
Thing is, in those situations, the author might've choreographed that chaos quite thoroughly. I'm not talking about the end product and what seems to be pants--*discovered* or not (sorry for the blasphemy @Phyrebrat, I swear I'm totally PC ;)), but the inner workings of the process. Granted, if those sort of scenes are your thing, it does make sense you'll try to emulate the feeling in your own writing, maybe getting inspired by a "chaotic" process to bring forth a chaotic scene--for me that's a bad headache though.
For me, that was true 6 or 7 years ago. These days I find the first draft is usually structurally about right.
No, I don't see pantsing as inefficient -- for me, it's not a matter of writing chaos and then going back to find the order. I don't tend to need multiple drafts in order to bring structure; the structure works itself out as I write, and the editing that I do is more to add to the description, bring out the emotions, and play with the language.
Maybe that's what the author's argument is trying to say. Discovery writers with enough experience will unconsciously integrate plotting strategies seamlessly into their discovery process (because despite there not being a "formula" to success, there are certain principles and ways of doing things that usually have a better track record than others, at the commercial level at least. Those "pseudo-formulaic" tidbits are taken in through experience and added to the repertoire, instantly instilling some sort of "order" to the "madness"), until it all meshes into a single "strategy". That would mean this issue I brought up concerns newer writers more closely than it would more seasoned ones, as newer ones are still learning about spacing plot points in certain ways, interweaving subtext and theme through dialogue/plot, foreshadowing, etc, all of which is inherently more difficult to pull off if you don't know where you're heading IMO.
I think when it comes down to it, we're all getting to the same end result, just by different roads and Jo makes a good point about time management; plotters waste time before, perhaps, discovery writers, during. Personally I like the idea of writing off the cuff and then there is a point in time when all the ideas and characters begin to coalesce into a tipping point of critical mass, and then it's boom...off we go.
I've straddled both sides of the fence for a long time, so I'm fond of my discovery days, but you just reminded me how big a gamble it is to do it that way. Waiting for elements to simply coalesce on their own after 40000 words in terrifies me now :eek:. My thought is not everybody gets lucky every time. Granted, I'm not the most optimistic type.
It would also be good if there were any comparative articles on the time management issue between both processes. Anyone know of any?
Just to play devil's advocate... :D Don't most pantsers, like Steve said, have a rough outline in their head, even if it's not all meticulously laid out on paper? Or at least a rough idea of where your story is heading? Is there such a thing as true pantsing when it comes to writing a novel? (Perhaps for a short story...) Just a thought! Sorry, will go away now...
That's part of the argument I'm bringing up. Everyone plots to an extent. There are no truly "discovered" stories. Everyone might not make charts and diagrams or have their rooms looking like a Beautiful Mind after going fully paranoid, but the need for the planning is there if there's to be an ordered plot that obeys the principles of foreshadowing, plot pace, and ever increasing stakes. So it begs the question: why does plotting get so much flak if nearly everyone is already kinda half-doing it (that'll be our dirty little secret :devilish:)? And when I say plotting I don't mean planning every single scene, micromanaging the plot, and being drowned in post-it notes. I mean having a general game plan, and knowing your 3-4 main plot points and roughly where they go, and hopefully having an inkling on how it all ends. It doesn't need to get more specific than that. But I do feel that this knowledge can help a lot in how one approaches a story. Instead of constraining your imagination, I see it as giving you small goals/milestones to achieve, to work toward. It gives you a compass to not get completely lost, which admittedly can happen more often if you like to discover.
I guess another valid question is: how "chaotic" is a story's chaos really?
I don't plot at all. It's not how I see story. For me, everything starts with an image, a setting and a character; I go from that point and don't stop until the end.
I recall a writer (I think he was a contributor in Wonderbook) who said he was dyslexic and learned to read at age 13. In the meanwhile, he'd gotten used to enjoying stories through images, and later on, when he started to write, that's how he envisioned his stories. He did plot, it's just he did it through images, IIRC.
 
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Discovery writers with enough experience will unconsciously integrate plotting strategies seamlessly into their discovery process (because despite there not being a "formula" to success, there are certain principles and ways of doing things that usually have a better track record than others, at the commercial level at least. Those "pseudo-formulaic" tidbits are taken in through experience and added to the repertoire, instantly instilling some sort of "order" to the "madness"), until it all meshes into a single "strategy".

That sounds accurate to me. I've witnessed that process in action, and I'd even say I make it work fairly well on occasion myself. Although "instantly" is a bit of an exaggeration. :D

I'd say it's a thing that comes with reading, but I've known plenty of people who read a lot and still don't have that intuitive understanding of the underpinnings, so there's that.

It certainly gets better with practice, at least for me.
 
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Discovery writer. Hmm I like that term.. I'll use that from now since Pantser sounds more like a person who runs and yanks down peoples trousers running away giggling!

While trousers may be yanked down in my stories, that's not the exact why it happens.

Anyways. I've noticed I tend to write best when I am bouncing in-between stories. While this might sound utterly insane and leaving one in a vacuum (A risk I have feared for it gives me no time to read per se) it helps spark the fires for other stories. The more I write the more I think, and with my mind. I'm insane.

I can think about numerous things at the same time. Literally.. I'm not joking my father can do this as well. It's why he's a damn good computer programmer, ab it of a robot.

He's able to think of roughly over 8 things at the same time while being in constant pain from a car crash. I'm roughly capped at 8 efficiently. You combine that with say tequila. I'm down to four with a sense of happy bliss.:inlove: So while I am writing this I am thinking about the post, what texas cactus vodka tastes like the other story I am working on, the main draft which I am..:whistle: avoiding working on, a sci-fi story I buried for some reason, and the anthropomorphic race in my steampunk setting due to another story I have scribbled out on my phone involving a character who suffers from this same exact problem, however I am debating on if I should put the POV from the other's characters perspective.

:lol: I am insane! Oh dear gods am I insane.:notworthy:

Also I have a good memory of keeping track of most of these things. However if I tend to write it down on paper, or any medium that isn't the web, it seems my brain just gets rid of it!:eek:


So yes I may be plotting out many things, but the method of discovery is usually on a story that is the polar opposite. While I could be knocking out 3K worth of words in one story the eureka moment happens for the other one.:confused:
 
I do think of myself as a pantser, but I'm not sure if it's a helpful term or not. I write how I write. I definitely do not outline like some people suggest - making a complete plot outline and then filling in all sections until a novel is born from the outline itself. Such a scenario would take all the joy out of writing and would seem like a chore, not an exciting way of exploring a created world and (possibly) getting paid to hallucinate.

Moreover, I often discover things as I write. I can make an outline all I want, but nothing real happens from all the daydreaming until the rubber hits the road.

That said, I did have an outline. Several different one. I made an outline, very rough, for how I want the whole trilogy to go. It's pretty short and allows a huge room for development and experimentation. But also I've done the main leg work of developing the world, as well, which means writing a story within it becomes relatively easier. But everything is still fomenting in my mind, and often my best ideas come as a result of actually writing. So I could never make a complete outline and follow it. But I do create an outline - often I'll sit down and do a free write / brainstorm session where I puke a whole bunch of word salad into a document and the plot forms. Then I get back to writing after wiping the screen off.
 
I hope not, lest I be judged too harshly...:D


That's part of the argument I'm bringing up. Everyone plots to an extent. There are no truly "discovered" stories. Everyone might not make charts and diagrams or have their rooms looking like a Beautiful Mind after going fully paranoid, but the need for the planning is there if there's to be an ordered plot that obeys the principles of foreshadowing, plot pace, and ever increasing stakes. So it begs the question: why does plotting get so much flak if nearly
.

My stories happen by laying one sentence after another. Occasionally I may know where the next chapter or two might go but they don't always go that way. There are many times when I am a bit stuck because I haven't yet had the information I need to write it inputted into my brain. In one of my stories, I called magical species The Fae. However, last night at writers group I was listening to a poem in Doric which used the word faen - it means fallen and I am now processing that idea and wondering if it might be how humans could view species of fae.

There's nowt wrong with plotting - it's just not the way I write. The writing consciousness is more meditation/subconscious whereas the editing process is fully conscious and analytical.

There are as many interpretations of this as there are people who write. Ultimately the speed someone writes at, how they go about it etc are unimportant if they're achieving what they want to with their writing. It only becomes a problem when the writer is frustrated.

Foreshadowing is what has gone before and ever-increasing stakes are taken care with by asking "How can I make this worse?"

Planning just takes the magic out of the process for me. To call it planned feels so rigid and I write to feel free. For me writing is fun and it's a blast - I don't want to change that just for some hairsplitting. I want to get to play with imaginary friends in imaginary worlds for a few hours, in a way that allows me to escape my life. It's much better for me than whisky.
 
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