Plotter or Pantser: Where Do You Stand?

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Writing


n. (1) A writer who plots out his or her story in the greatest of detail before starting the draft; (2) a writer obsessed with outlines, index cards and writing apps; (3) a writer who spends most of his or her time organizing the novel then writes it in about ten minutes.


n. (1) A writer who writes by the seat of the pants and discovers the story through the process of writing it; (2) a writer who finds outlines and plotting devices to be constricting and the work of the word-demon; (3) a writer who fervently believes that the characters decide where the story is going and the author is just along for the ride.

Thankfully, most writers fall somewhere in between these two extremes.  Here’s where I stand:

When I draft a novel, I go through a 3-step process:

  1. First, I usually pants (a verb?) my way through about one third of it, getting to know my characters and discovering the story.  Then I stop.
  2. I go back and do one or two quick revisions of that first third so I can nail down both the characters’ personalities and the direction of the plot.  After that, I extract an outline from that first section (i.e. I sit down with the text I’ve written and write an outline of what I have), then continue by writing a rough outline of the rest of the story.
  3. Once I have an outline of the whole novel, I write from it but pause every 20-30 pages to re-evaluate and make adjustments.

With this process, I spend the vast majority of my time getting to know the characters and writing that first third of the story.  The last two-thirds of the story get written in a whirlwind process where it almost feels like the novel is writing itself.  So, I guess you could say that first I’m a Pantser for the first third of the novel, then a Plotter after that.

What about you?  Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?  What does your process look like?

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