There are some big questions in life that all writers must address:
Commit to a daily word count or take it chapter by chapter? Scrivner or Word? Write at home or go to Starbucks? Write every day or write only when you’re inspired? Wake up early to write or be a night owl and write? Write only after coffee or write after a few glasses of wine? …
But the biggest question all writers face? Should you plot… or not plot? In other words…
Should you Pants or Plot?
Both sides of the fence have their rationales and their defenses as to why their way is the best way to write a book, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of clarity for inquiring minds.
So let’s figure it out:
ARE YOU A PANTSER?
- Do you commence a new novel based solely on an idea, character or sentence?
- Do you often say, “I let the book tell me where it’s going.”?
- Do you view writing as taking a road trip with only a vague destination in mind?
Then you might be a Panster.
ARE YOU A PLOTTER?
- Do you get inspired and then write an outline?
- Do you get giddy doing chapter summaries?
- Does the thought of not knowing whether your character is a mustard or mayo person make you anxious?
Then you might be a Plotter.
Just in case you haven’t guessed it yet, Pantsers just go with the flow or “fly by the seat of their pants” when it comes to writing. Plotters take a more outline approach to their craft.
Is one way better than another?
PRO – the creative process is unhindered, you can take the story in any direction and let it unfold organically and magically.
CON – with complicated stories – or if you are writing a series – the consistency can be compromised as well as there is a tendency for plot holes.
PRO- You get a chance to do in-depth character sketches as well as fix any major plot issues before you even get started.
CON- You can get stuck in an outline and therefore limit yours and the book’s potential.
So is there a wrong or right way to write a novel?
I don’t think so. Writing is such an individual process that some people would truly feel suffocated by a detailed outline where others wouldn’t be able to write without one.
That’s one of the greatest parts of the writing community, we all have our quirks and our methods and formulas. What works for one author doesn’t work for the next, so the most important thing is to find what works for you.
If you do happen to be a little more on the Plotter side of the line, or maybe a hybrid-mutant of the two (a Plotantser?) there are two books I’ve read that really helped me in the outline stages of my novel.
The first is Outlining your Novel by K.M. Weiland. This not only has some great practical advice but a bunch of author interviews. You can see how some of them don’t outline at all, some of them outline to an extreme and how most do a mixture of both methods.
The next one I’m a huge fan of, it’s called Rock Your Plot by Cathy Yardley and it’s a really great read. I tell all aspiring authors to get a copy of this book (if they are of the Plotter persuasion) as I think her outline tips are great and really practical.
But again, there is no wrong or right way to write you novel. The bottom line is you have to write it! Whatever methods you take to get to that finish line is the right way for you.
Which brings me all the way, right back around:
Are you a Pantser or a Plotter?