Plotters Vs. Pantsers is apparently a thing, describing two distinct camps for authors. As I find these niche specific terms it becomes more and more clear to me that either A) Authors have a keen sense of irony and sometimes very dry humor or B) None of them have kept the definition of the term “innuendo” in mind when they come up with slang like this. My bet is on A.
“On Writing” has been, as advertised, a fantastic book. Stephen King has tons of solid ideas and advice. Reading his memoir/textbook doesn’t mean I will write like him, or take everything in it as gospel. There are a few parts that I will take as more guidelines than actual rules. That said, there are certain bits I mean to use good and hard. One of these has to do with plotting vs. pantsing.
Quick review: Authors who take their idea and attack it with outlines, character charts, neatly arranged resources for accuracy, GMC tables and beat sheets by projected length are plotters.
Authors who take their idea and fly with it ‘by the seat of their pants’, letting events unfold and Googling indiscriminately as the need arises are pantsers.
Most actual authors fall to one side of this spectrum but use elements of both.
Mr. King, at a guess, is more of a pantser. He uses the analogy of his writing ideas being a found object, like a fossil. Once they have emerged he digs them out and follows their shape with various writer’s tools. Sometimes they surprise him with different twists, often the endings aren’t what he thought they would be. After my stint in the soul-sucking thicket that is Goal, Motivation and Conflict tables I’ve decided I fall more on the pantser side too. Two people who should really be in love and where I see them in that process combine to suggest a story to me, which I fall in love with and want to tell. I have a loose plot in mind with a tentative ending. Ideas, events, possible conflicts, sometimes random conversations next to me at the grocery store change my story and I follow where they lead. At the end I have used Google a lot and know entirely too much about life in the 1870s (did you know people thought indoor toilets was a disgusting, unhygienic idea?), but the book has grown out of the characters I’ve come to know so well rather than an outline I plotted way back in the beginning.
I have embraced my status, aligned with my tribe, and say Team Pantsers all the way! We need a flag, or a crest, a mascot, possibly a motto. Something to meditate on while I wait for the next round of manuscript rejections.
header image via stocksnap.io and Alisa Anton