It’s all very well providing advice to writers, but at the end of the day, everyone is different. We can sit here all day and lecture you on how to perfectly graft every step of your book before you’ve even written a word, but for some people, that would lead to them never even starting the damn thing.
Some people will have looked at that title and had no clue what either of those things are, let alone which they identify as.
If you’re a plotter, you probably knew most of your book before it had even started. You knew your characters, your themes, and each major plot point. Your folders are probably filled with perfectly structured planning documents, from character maps to chapter summaries.
If you’re a pantser, you’re more the type of writer that has a rough idea where you’re headed, but you’re not too fussed about how you’ll get there, yet. If you write your book out of order, you don’t really know where each chapter will fit, just that it will eventually.
Or, if you’re like me, you fall somewhere in between. I have the document archives of an insane plotter with control issues (I’m not even kidding, just wait for later posts), but the haphazard technique of a pantser, with new characters being added right as they’re needed in the scene.
So, why bother figuring out which one you are? Why not just get on with it? Well, it can be a lot easier to curb some of your bad writing habits if you know which to look out for.
If you’re a plotter, you might skip around what you’re writing, depending on what you feel like. That’s all well and good until you get to that bit that you just end up avoiding for all eternity. It’s also really, annoyingly easy to get bored, and then distracted. When you know exactly what’s going to happen, writing can be a chore. Not to mention that if you decide you want to change just one detail, your whole outline might need reworking.
If you’re a pantser, though, you write right in the seat of your pants (hence the name. British readers: it’s an American term. I’m not talking about writing in your underwear – that’s a whole different article). You’re less likely to notice gaping plot holes, forget little things like appearances, or even get lost on your way to your destination. Also, if writer’s block hits, you have no plan to help yourself overcome it. This means you’re more likely to end up abandoning your project.
So, while I wouldn’t recommend that a plotter tried to force themselves into pantser shoes, it can be helpful to try and train yourself to find a balance.
If you’re a pantser, and don’t want to ruin it by planning, try post-writing planning. It sounds like an oxymoron, I know, but if you just make a few notes once you’ve figured out certain parts, you can avoid getting to the editing stage and realising that actually, those characters should never have made out because they’re cousins (Guilty…).
If you’re a plotter, though, give yourself breathing space in your plan. Leave yourself room to stray a little, and write more naturally.