Writing Methods: Plotting vs. Pantsing

Welcome to my new series of writing tips for beginners. Today I´ll share my thoughts on different writing techniques with you guys. I´ll explain the two methods of plotting and pantsing and at the end you can choose, which writing method works better for you.

Plotting vs. Pantsing

What is a Plotter?

A plotter is someone who has a story idea and creates a detailed outline of it before s/he starts writing on the actual manuscript. In this writing technique not only the complete story will be plotted in advance, but plotters also create detailed lists of information about the characters and the setting, write down some notes for scenes and maybe even some important quotes they want to include in their story.

What is a Pantser?

A pantser on the other hand sits down and starts writing when they have an inspiration or a great idea. They don´t plot and follow their ideas in the moment of writing. Often the story of a pantser changes a lot from the first idea to the end result. They follow their intuition and discover their story in the progress of writing. If you use the pantsing method you will have more freedom while writing your story, but when you finished it, you need to edit the whole manuscript to make sure, that there are no plot holes and everything makes sense.

The Pros and Cons of Plotting vs. Pantsing?

There is no writing method that is better than the other one, just go for the technique that fits your writing better. If you are not sure yet, which writing technique fits you better, here are some pros and cons of both creating styles.

Plotting is amazing, because …

  • It requires less editing and reduces the chance of plot holes
  • It makes the planning of the writing schedule easier
  • It gives the writer the opportunity to get to know their story and characters fully before starting to write by creating character sheets and making sure the message you want to tell the readers will be in it
  • It gives you a clear writing path without any surprises. You can concentrate more on finding the best-fitting words, instead of worrying about the story development

The downside of plotting

  • It´s very time-consuming
  • Sticking to a planned story can feel boring and you might miss the creative flow
  • If you get an amazing idea while writing and want to change your story, you might feel like it was a waste to spend all the time on the outline planning or you even have to start planning again and again in the progress of writing

Pantsing is amazing, because …

  • Writers can enjoy their creative flow fully
  • You won´t waste any time and can start writing your story right when the muse kisses you
  • Your story might be finished earlier, cause you started writing earlier
  • The storyline might be more natural and creative as you come up with the details while writing it
  • All your energy can go into the writing progress

The downside of pantsing

  • You might question your story idea more often and maybe are more likely to give up on the writing progress
  • Missing inspiration can hold you back from continuing writing
  • Your story might make the wrong turn and you have to go back and delete parts
  • Plot holes happen and you have to edit them afterwards and find a way to change the already written story to make them work out

Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?

Now that you know the ups and downs of both writing techniques you might feel more attracted to one method. But not all writers have a preference and most of them, myself included, would describe themselves as Plantsers – the perfect mixture of both. I personally plot around 20 % of my story before I start writing. The more I outline the easier the writing progress is, but I also love it when inspiration hits me and a scene goes completely different than expected and a side character suddenly ends up being one of the main protagonists. I don´t want to be bothered by outlining the character sheets completely, but having a rare idea of where I want to go with my story helps me a lot in increasing my daily word count. Especially for writing challenges like the #NaNoWriMo it´s helpful to plot as much as you can in advance, so you can write the first draft of your story in just 30 days.

How would you describe your own plotting style: Are you a Plotter, a Pantser or even a Plantser?

Have fun plotting your newest story and I see you guys in the next writing post,

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  1. Liebe Tiziana, wie du würde ich mich als irgendwas dazwischen bezeichnen, wobei ich ja mit Schubladen generell so meine Schwierigkeiten habe. Ich habe zwar immer eine Grundidee und gewisse Eckpfeiler meiner Geschichte, aber dann überlasse ich doch lieber alles dem Gefühl, ob sich die Geschichte im Moment des Schreibens richtig für mich anfühlt. Ich glaube, anders könnte ich es auch gar nicht. Ich denke aber, gerade wenn man Krimis oder ähnliche Werke verfasst, dann ist es ohne strukturierte Planung gar nicht möglich. Richtig Interessante Einblicke ins Autorenleben, bitte gerade mehr davon. Ich wünsche dir eine ganz fantastische neue Woche und hoffe dir geht es richtig gut. Alles, alles Liebe, x S.Mirli

  2. I had never heard of either of these terms before, but have loved reading about each writing style! I think I would lean more on the side of the plotter, even though I’ve never really written many stories before. I think it would be really neat to start back up again though!

    Make Life Marvelous

  3. Hey Tiziana, hope you’re having a fantastic beginning of the year!

    This is very useful since I really enjoy writing for my blog and even for some other projects, despite it is not my main profession but it is always nice to spot the terms and certain techniques in order to improve 🙂

    I’d say I am a combination of bots, but it also depends on the project and on the length / duration. But I would love to be kissed by the muse and be more of a pantsing, I normally tend to go the plotting method since I try to be very organized, but I’d say both options have a good side!

    Take care!

    1. Oh thank you Pablo! Yes I would say it definitely depends on the projects 🙂
      For blogposts for example I like plotting more, but when it comes to book writing I prefer pantsing cause I come up with way better ideas during the process of writing!

  4. Ich glaube ich bin ganz eindeutiger der Plotter. Besonders, wenn es ums Romane schreiben geht 😀 Bei kürzeren Texten und Artikeln ist das ja nochmal eine andere Sache, aber gerade, wenn man spannende Wendungen oder Geheimnisse einbauen will, ist ein geplanter Plot wahrscheinlich unerlässlich 😉
    Liebe Grüße

  5. Gerade bei kreativen Dingen habe ich so meine Probleme mit „Schubladen“. Ich bin da irgendwie immer wo dazwischen… 😉
    Das schwankt je nach Thema/Aufgabe/Ziel auch gerne mal ein bisschen.

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  7. This is interesting! I never thought much about the different ways of writing before! I am someone who only has a rough idea in my mind before I write my blog posts, as I don’t write a lot I don’t need a formal plan, but I couldn’t write a post without an idea to start with!

    Hope that you are having a good weekend 🙂 Another hot one here!

  8. Liebe Tiziana, was für eine interessante Übersicht – ich bin wohl so ein Zwischending und wechsel hin und her. Ein Buch oder ein größeres Schreibprojekt habe ich bisher noch nicht unternommen, aber beim Verfassen der Blogbeiträge gibt es meist eine Grundidee mit mehreren Unterteilunngspunkten, die ich dann je nachdem entsprechend bearbeite. Aber es gibt natürlich auch oft Situationen, wo mir beim tatsächlichen Schreiben einfach ganz andere Ideen und Gedanken durch den Kopf gehen und dann ein Beitrag entsteht, der so ganz vom ursprünglich geplanten abweicht. Manchmal habe ich nur eine grobe Grundidee und fange einfach zum Schreiben an und manchmal bin ich während des Schreibens froh, wenn ich wieder auf die vorab gefassten Punkte zurückgreifen kann. Also läuft es bei mir eigentlich, jedes Mal irgendwie nach Situation unterschiedlich ab.
    Hab einen ganz wunderbaren Tag und alles Liebe Gesa

    1. Hallo liebe Gesa, so wie du das beschrieben hast läuft es bei mir auch würde ich sagen. Die Momente, in denen ich wirklich gute Passagen schreibe, sind aber stets ungeplante. Da fühle ich mich dann einfach im Flow und dem Text merkt man es auch an 🙂

  9. Hi Tiziana,
    juhu, ein neuer Beitrag! Ich bin definitiv ein Planer, denn für mein erstes Buchprojekt würde mich alles andere komplett überfordern und ich so den Faden verlieren, dass ich nicht mehr weiß, wohin die Reise, äääh, die Geschichte natürlich, gehen sollte 🙂 Aber der Raum für die Kreativität muss natürlich trotzdem da sein, denn sonst verliert man wirklich den Spaß. Nutzt du eigentlich ein Whiteboard oder so was? Ich habe das aktuell in Scrivener, aber auch das finde ich irgendwie so mäßig übersichtlich…
    Liebste Grüße!

    1. Ich plane tatsächlich nur super wenig. Ein Whiteboard habe ich bislang noch nicht benutzt. Für mein neues Projekt (einen Krimi) wäre es aber vermutlich sinnvoll ein wenig mehr im Vorfeld festzulegen, also werde ich mal verschiedene Planungstools ausprobieren 🙂

  10. I’m more of a plotter and my struggle is always finding the time to sit down and put the whole outline in my head down on paper. And then I end up putting it off because I don’t have the full picture yet. Gotta work on not procrastinating and sticking to finishing!

  11. Plotter & Plantser – interesting topic and debate!
    What I do know is that I’m on a writing roll and really enjoying writing at the moment, both in my job and for my personal creative projects and I hope the feeling lasts coz it really helps to cope with lockdown season, Xo

  12. What an interesting post, I am not sure what method would be better for me. I am half thinking of writing a snarky book on a send of the Law of Attraction and the whole manifestation trip which I personally think is nonsense. So with this type of book kind of a non self help book lol not sure which would be better maybe start with planster and then move to plotter…

    Allie of

    1. Oh that sounds interesting! And yes with some things it really doesn´t make sense that the law of attraction would be the solution to the problem!
      You have a great writing style, go for it! 🙂

  13. I’m more of a plotter like even when I don’t do a complete outline I have normally an idea of where the story or in my case fanfiction is going to go, but even in blogging I plot in a way that I am going to blog about and I almost never pants there. I really enjoy this post thanks for sharing.

  14. Hey TIziana,

    wow, ich habe nie darüber nachgedacht, dass es da verschiedene Methoden gibt. Beide klingen gut, wobei ich sagen muss, dass ich wahrscheinlich eher eine Pantserin wäre (wäre ich Autorin). Mir liegt das genaue Planen einfach nicht so und ich gebe lieber kreativen Flüssen nach.

    Ganz liebe Grüße,
    Krissi von the marquise diamond

    1. Hey Celyn,
      oh that is very interesting! I love how everyone is sharing their own experiences 🙂
      have a great day and welcome as a new reader to my blog!

  15. I have never heard of plotting or pantsing before, so I have definitely learnt something new. The only writing I do is for the blog, but I think I flit between the two styles. I guess it depends on what I am writing!
    Thank you for sharing!
    Aimsy xoxo
    Aimsy’s Antics

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