Posted in writing

Using an Outline vs Writing by the Seat of Your Pants

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

penThis is a question every writer gets asked every now and then. It’s a fairly harmless question. How do you like to write–by the seat of your pants, or with an outline?

It’s a good thing for a writer to know about yourself, kind of like knowing what kind of personality you have. If you know if you are a pantser or a plotter, then you know what some of your strengths and weaknesses are as a writer.

Which is better?

If you are a plotter, then you are pretty steady and reliable. You are meticulous and map things out ahead of time. You know exactly where your story is going and how to get there. However, plotters can become enslaved to the outline and don’t leave much room for creativity. Personally, I find if I put too much detail into my outline then I have no motivation to finish the story–I already know how its going to end. Don’t be afraid to throw the plot out the window when your story starts writing itself.

If you are a pantser, you write by the seat of your pants. You’re flexible and enthusiastic, and have no problem chasing rabbits. When you write, you have no idea where you’re going but your going to have fun getting there. Unfortunately, lack of planning can be the downfall of pantsers. When you have no idea where your story is going, you rely completely on inspiration to write your story and provide motivation for you. Inspiration is a fickle thing. One moment its here and the next is gone.

There’s nothing wrong with being either a plotter or a pantser. In my experience, a lot of pantsers have a very loose outline they’re following–enough to tell them where they’re going but not detailed enough to be constrictive–while a lot of plotters allow flexibility into their stories. In my opinion, every writer needs to be a little bit of both in order to reach a happy, productive medium.

For me, I fall somewhere in the middle between plotter and pantser. I’ll lean closer to one or the other, depending on the story. Hopefully, as time moves on, I’ll find my most productive balance as a writer. Then I’ll really get to work.

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