Reader Friday: What kind of writer are you?

When it comes to developing a story, are you a Plotter, Pantser or Tweener? Would you ever try walking on the other side?

28 thoughts on “Reader Friday: What kind of writer are you?

  1. I’m a Reformed Pantser.

    Now I use an outline, a fluid roadmap I update after each new scene. It becomes an ultra-useful tool as I near the end of my first draft, and dive into revisions.

  2. Now, tweener. I started out a plotter, because in life in general I plan down to the last detail. But my writing didn’t cooperate with my normal method of operation. 😎

    I then tried SOTP, but that was too messy and involved too much extra work.

    So now I incorporate both. But who knows if on next manuscript I’ll change my ways again. It might be that I write every novel differently. We’ll see.

    BK Jackson

  3. I’m a fledgling writer and I definitely consider myself a plotter. It’s the only way I can keep track of the details. My drafts are messy at best and a complete train wreck at times. I use at least four tools to help me keep track of everything on my laptop and another handful in my writing space.

  4. Plotter. I tried the other way, and I’m not trying it again. That doesn’t mean I detail everything that has to happen. I have a few sentences in the outline for each scene, then I write it however i want. Things come to mind, too, which require me to go back and add or cut stuff after the first draft is finished. I don;t have it in me to be creative without some destination in mind. Knowin where I’m going is what frees me up.

  5. I’m a Tweener but I also reject the idea that my characters have free will. In their world I still have final say of where they’re going and what they’re doing.

    As a general rule I try to have major story arcs pre-planned and then I just sheperd them along the plot, a lot like I’ve been doing since I was 8 and I started playing DnD. Writing a good campaign is a lot like writing a novel. You need engaging characters, interesting scenes, and a believable world.

  6. I guess you could say I’m a tweener that leans heavily toward pantsing. I’ll have a title, generally, and a short description of the book in my head, and if I write any of that down, it’s no more than two or three lines. I don’t use outlines any more, but I still think ahead and imagine possibilities. I just don’t like to set them in print until I get there with the draft.

  7. Plotter! I started out by the pants, but I found that I burned out of ideas around chapter 5 and tended to fall out of love with my story.

    I don’t have that problem anymore. I have my entire story plotted out now. So when I sit down to write, I’m thinking, “Oh right, chapter 11. Phil gets fired.”

  8. I’m a plotter. I begin with a story synopsis and an idea of the major turning points, but I love writing the “discovery draft” in which I figure out what the story is really about. I love it when new ideas emerge. That element of surprise is part of what makes writing so addictive.

    • I’ve pretty much gone down a similar road myself. At first I outlined my story to death. Then I discovered that everything was too complicated and that I didn’t know how to outline. And what I “thought” was the story wasn’t really IT.

      Oye! Now I do what you do. It’s all a search for and discovery of story. I tweak the outline to fit the 3-act structure and manage conflict so it plays like a good tune.

  9. Plotter. Given what I write, I have to be. I’m moving people over three continents in my last novel (Doha 12); things had to happen on certain days or after X amount of time, and it all had to come together on one particular day. I’m trying to keep a number of people together or apart for certain amounts of time in my current novel (South). There’s no way I can do this on the fly.

  10. Tweener. I usually start with a small outline for thr first few chapters, but then go by where the story takes me. If I come up with something that needs to be plotted out I do so, but don’t always stick to it. I plotted out the last few chapters to my wip but left a lot ofnroom for things that will surprise me later

  11. What I find really intriguing is that we have no pure pantsers so far. Yet, when I speak to writers, at least half of them claim to be such.

    What’s going on?

  12. A Die Hard with a Vengeance PLOTTER! I plan the beginning and the end (not always in that order) then use Aristotle’s Incline to fill in the mid- and quarter-points, outline the bits inbetween, work out the plot and character arcs, then start writing with the most vivid scene (usually not the first)!

  13. I’m a plotter on the macro-scale (definitely unable to write without some idea where I’m headed), but a pantser on the micro-scale. I’ll type up a very light sketch of the scene I have in mind (plotted), then print it out on 1-2 pages (triple-spaced if I can) and go full-pants from there with my pen. I fill in the spaces with whatever comes, make the changes on the computer, and repeat several times.

    I don’t find that I have to make any significant adjustments to the overall plot this way, although I do cycle through several complete drafts before my pantsing pen runs out of things to say or tweak. One thing I often find though is that my scenes aren’t actually about what I originally thought they were about. That’s the cool part. πŸ™‚

  14. I guess I’m a plotter, although I don’t plan every detail, neither do I write a complete outline. I leave some things to discover while I’m writing. I know the major scenes and the ending though. I have tried to work as a pantser but it either leaves me with a writers block or I’ll end up with a complete mess of a first draft. Besides, I can’t stop my brain from discovering the story before I start writing it.

  15. When I read JSB’s book ‘Plot and Structure,’ I started making scene cards and never looked back. Traditional outlines always felt too restricting, but no plan at all was tough, too, so they were the perfect solution. I guess that makes me a Tweener.

  16. James Scott Bell: since you’re looking for someone to own up to being a pantser, that would be me. But I regret it: as a pantser, I have fun–until I start editing. That’s when I see everything I failed to pick up on when I first drafted the story. But maybe it doesn’t matter: I am still having forehead-thumping moments right up to the time I must let the thing go. And go on having them after it’s published.

    • Well, Barry, I do think that’s what makes pantsers pants–it’s “fun,” it’s discovery, it’s new every day. But then you have to do something with the mess.

      But if a pantser were to see his first draft as just that, a big brainstorming party, it might be one way to view the whole process.

      But pre-plotting brainstorming can be fun, too. One thing I like to do is get a bunch of index cards (thanks, Beth) and go to Starbucks and just write down scene idea after scene idea, randomly. Then shuffle the cards and start looking for connections. All that time, the story is bubbling around in my head, and the boys in the basement are sending up new stuff.

      But then I organize the stuff into a plot….which seems to replicate (but in a much shorter time) the pantser “first draft then edit the mess” idea.

    • Thank God somebody else out there is a pantster. I’m definitely a “throw up the first draft then edit the mess” person. Sometimes it magically comes together, sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, I’ve had a blast writing. Isn’t that what it’s about??

  17. Tweener. I love being organized, so one would think outlining and plotting would go along with that. But I usually start out a novel as a panster, writing until I need to remember a detail or decide where the story needs to go. Then I start the outline.

  18. I think I’m a tweener. I have to have some kind of structure before I start writing, because if I don’t I get caught up in the story and confused by all the details. Eventually, I lose the central point of what I’m trying to say and I eventually feel like my head will explode. But I like to have a little wiggle room because I want my characters to take me on a ride. If I’ve already planned the route in minute detail, I won’t go anywhere exciting.

  19. I’m not so teeny or weeny but definitely tweeny. I started out as a pantser and I’ve worked hard to learn to plot and outline. I love characters but I have to find something for them to do. I, like my writing, am a work in progress.

  20. I’m a pantalooner, loonapantser, outlyer, outerpantieloonie, panty loonie…..


    My name is Basil, and I’m a writer….but I’m recovering they say…

    • I’m such a pantster that my butt cheeks hang out from the denim worn threadbare by scraping my rear end on the pavement of story road as I am dragged along by the tale.

  21. J.S.B.– Thanks for your useful, perceptive comments. In the end, professionals–people who write for a living–can’t be pantsers. Unless you’re Jonathan Winters (RIP), following instinct and impulse just isn’t compatible with earning a living. I’m what I hope is an amateur with some skill in composing sentences and making them into paragraphs that keep people wanting to read. Soon, I’m going to find out whether any of this is still true–25 years after the publication of my first and only thriller.

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