Pants(er) on Fire!

I’m trying my hardest to move from being a full-out PANTSER (writing by the seat of my pants) to being a meticulous outliner. This transformation is turning into a test of wills between me and me. I’m not lying when I say I’m cheating on the promise I’ve made to myself and this game of pantser/planner is turning into a private joke.

Initially, I was hell bent on creating the entire outline—on note cards—prior to beginning this novella. But now that I’m into the outline, including notes on the characters and bookmarked historical references, it appears that I can’t help myself. Not writing is impossible. I just had to start the draft. So after I was completely clear on the action in the first chapter (drumroll) I WROTE it. And after I wrote it, I read it and started to write chapter two. And then chapter 3 was inevitable.

Then, I pushed myself back to the note cards, paper clips, character descriptions, timelines, etc. and planned out the next few chapters before—surprise, surprise—writing again.

Am I inching my way towards becoming a planner? Or am I just dancing on the line between the two opposing modus operandi of fiction writer?

What do you think? Flying by the seat of storytelling pants OR plotting & planning before my fingers hit the keyboard—which is best?


Notes & Outlines...

Notes & Outlines…


  1. An awful lot depends on how you define pantster and plotter. I suspect we’re all hybrids of one sort or another. In the beginning, a pantster’s story is wide open. It can go anywhere. But as the story progresses, each new thing creates constraints – e.g. the need to remember what you called that very minor character in chapter 2, or the personality trait you gave your MC when you were still working out who and what she/he was.

    All these things are constraints. Add the complexities of the action and suddenly the pantster’s playground is not as big any more and suddenly you have to write plot points down in order to remember them. You have to become organised.

    For me, this point is usually at about the 1/4 mark. From then on I have to start looking ahead so I can weave all the bits together. I think it becomes inevitable.

    My only real problem with plotting is the mindset that sometimes goes with it – i.e. that the story is now set in stone…because you’ve outlined it. I honestly believe all stories need to be restructured at least once because we rarely get the ‘flow’ correct the first time around.

    Unfortunately, restructurng is a lot of work so most people don’t do it. They don’t see it as a necessary part of ‘editing’. The result is a plot in which the writer forces the action from point A to point B. It works, but to a naive reader it doesn’t quite answer the question of why a character did X to get to Y.

    Hmm…and that is probably where I should stop! Apologies, this has been on my mind quite a bit as well lately.

    If your own brand of hybrid works why question it? In the end only the story matters. 🙂

    • Candy Korman

      In the end, only the story matters!
      I’m going to keep that in mind. It’s sage advice.

      Process is, after all, secret. Writers hide this from the readers like magicians pulling rabbits out of hats. Perhaps I should worry less about HOW and just get the story written?