Plotting vs Pantsing

Good morning, fellow imaginers, and welcome to another weekend edition here at YJBLiterary! This week, I’ve been busy with designing the cover for Book 3 in the Metamorphs series and breaking down the outline for Book 4. I’m really excited to get to work on the final novel, and just outlining it has gotten me hyped for its completion. Once Book 3 is released, I plan on starting immediately, as Fallout’s ending will leave you all on the edge of your seats! Working on the story’s outline had me thinking about today’s topic: pantsing vs. plotting.

There are two types of writers out there, pantsers and plotters, and both have their pros and cons. Pantsers are those who write “by the seat of their pants”, or create their stories on the fly, whereas plotters are those who take their time to develop the story’s structure ahead of time before writing. Pantsers tend to allow the story to take them wherever it leads, oftentimes surprising the author themselves as they go along. Plotters are often Type A personalities and feel like the story runs smoother when all plot holes are addressed and the story’s path is clearly established. Pantsers can often find themselves with gaping issues within their novels or stuck within a scenario they wrote themselves in, however plotters can also overthink things and be halted in the endless pursuit of perfection. 

When I was younger, I was a panster  and wrote my short stories the moment I thought of them, regardless of whether I knew where the destination led to. It was exhilarating, and each word brought endless possibilities for where the story would go. To this day, when I play D&D or write my short stories/anthologies, I tend to pants them, dictating the action as I go along. I’ve been pleased with the results, and since they are stand-alones, I don’t need to worry about plot holes or interfering with other works that I’ve written. It’s an extremely freeing and expressive form of creativity and allows me to work out my improvisational muscles to their fullest.

While pantsing was my original style, things changed when I started to develop my ideas for a full novel, particularly a series. The further I expanded upon Metamorphs, and ultimately the Alterra Universe, the more I realized that this was something that required extensive focus and detail. In order for the concept to work, I would need to detail every little thing, from minor characters and their powers, to locations, and even phrases that were uttered that could be tied back to a particular scene. That level of detail requires plotting, and it’s something that has helped me immensely.

I go through every chapter and highlight key scenes with every book I create. I have a large file (my Alterra Bible) which details every character and place used so I can reference them again. Using this has allowed me to fly through writing these books as I already know where my characters are going and how they get there. Surprisingly enough, this hasn’t stifled my creativity in the slightest. In fact, it’s allowed me to write more powerful scenes, as my characters are able to develop at their pace with a designed purpose. 

There are times when I stray off the intended path, as I still want the story to tell itself, and my characters can surprise even me at times. There are plot lines I’ve abandoned for better ones because the story dictated it so. But I still remain on track overall, and it’s allowed for some really amazing writing experiences. Overall, I think there’s a time and place for both styles, and while one isn’t inherently superior to the other, without plotting, there’s no way the Metamorphs series would be successful. 

If you’re writing a stand-alone novel or a short story, perhaps pantsing is the best style for you. When writing a longer novel or a series, I would always recommend at least a good amount of plotting beforehand. While plotting might take time initially, it will save you time in the long run and keep you on track. I hope today’s post was helpful, and until next time, keep imagining!

Photo by Campaign Creators on Unsplash

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