Can a Pantser Become a Planner?

I’m naturally a pantser —writing by the seat of my pants— but I’m coming to the conclusion that this is working a whole lot better for short stories than for longer works of fiction. It’s time for this improviser to make a (shudder) plan! Yes, I’m attempting an actual outline.

This is more frightening than the scariest horror story!


Step One: Take a Deep Breath

Step Two: Figure Out the Overall Story Arc

(aka What is the protagonist’s journey?)

Step Three: Panic

That’s as far as I’ve gotten as of right now. I’m in full out writer panic mode! This is insane. How do people do this? I’m reduced to pacing around my apartment.



Step One: Take a Deep Breath

Step Two: Take a Serious Look at the Protagonist

Step Three: Figure Out Her Journey

Step Four: Breathe!

Step Five: Determine that Proper Supplies are Needed

If I’m going to write in a more systematic fashion, perhaps I need system-centric supplies? A whiteboard? A bunch of markers in pretty colors? Um…


Rebooting again…

Step One: Take a Deep Breath

Step Two: Take a Serious Look at the Protagonist

Step Three: Figure Out Her Journey

Step Four: Reread the unsystematic first 50 pages and…


To be continued…


Any advice for advancing my transformation from pantser to planner?



    • Candy Korman

      I’ve made a commitment to deliver some kind of outline to a mentor so… I must show her something! Bang Crash Ack! Now, I sound like a bad Batman episode. Half the time when I start writing a short story, I don’t know how it will end… But I’ve found that my longer works lack tension, so I’m trying to be systematic.

      This is new territory for me.

  1. I’m not a planner either but I notice every one of your attempts began with your protagonist so how about just doing a character sketch and then having lines of possible consequences spidering out from that centre?

    Hmm… that sounds useless even to me. What I meant was that aspects of personality can give rise to the plot…

    Oh gawd…forget it. The whole thing about pantsting is that we ‘feel’ the story. It’s only after the feel runs out that we have to start plotting. Good luck!

    • Candy Korman

      You are so funny! I laughed out loud — for real!

      Yes… I’ve started with a couple of “visual aids” — a family tree with multiple families, some interconnected. And a map of all the suspects surrounding the protagonist. She’s like the fly in the center of a spider’s web.

  2. I moved from pantser to planner as well. I use the four-act story structure, but usually when I start writing I’ve only got about 50% of it really fleshed out. After that it’s all: “dark night of the soul here!” But I do think a bit of planning has helped tighten up my writing.

    • Candy Korman

      My objective is to maintain a basic level of tension AND have a story arc that builds the suspense. In longer works, I have so many ideas, so many red herrings and detour tangents that it’s too easy to lower the tension and lose my way. Lately, I’ve read the beginnings of dozens of novels that ground to a crawl with repetition and/or flights of fancy. I don’t want to do that!