The terms “pantser” and “planner” (or “plotter”) are often used to describe a writer’s preferred style of creating a short story or novel. Planners spend hours fine-tuning the outlines they will follow while writing. Meanwhile, pantsers fly by the seat of their pants (hence the name!). Pantsers may have a vague idea about direction, but they’re not interested in following a map. At Writer’s Relief, we’ve also noticed a third writing style that combines elements of both the pantser and planner style: Plantser! Here’s how a plantser writing style offers you extra benefits.
Benefits Of Using A Plantser Writing Style
How To Tell If You’re A Plantser
Do you write an outline, only to discard half of it? Or perhaps you create intricate backstories for your characters, but then allow the plot to unfold on its own. If this sounds familiar, congratulations: you’re a plantser!
Plantsing offers you the benefits of both pantsing and planning. Writers who want to combine the advantages of plotting out a novel with giving the characters free rein often use the plantser writing style.
With plantsing, you create a bit of structure but still allow for the fluidity that keeps your story from feeling predictable. It allows you to spontaneously take the plot in directions you weren’t originally planning to go.
Harnessing Your Inner Plantser
Create an outline
Using an outline allows you to write faster and deal more effectively with writer’s block than a pantser who writes without one. But didn’t we just say that planners/plotters use outlines? Yes, but a plantser can use an outline as well! However, a plantser outline isn’t as detailed or rigid as the one a planner would create. Your flexible outline would focus mainly on the story arc and key scenes found in the beginning, the middle, and the end.
Here’s an example of a plantser outline: Your character must first acquire the magic ring before setting off on a perilous journey to destroy it in a fiery volcano. There will be dangers encountered and perhaps a double-cross by a trusted ally. All may seem lost, but the protagonist will eventually save the day (and the world)—but at a cost. This simple outline provides a checklist to follow so you don’t wander too far away from the path—or the plot.
Use the outline as a suggestion, not a map
Now that you’ve created an outline—get ready to take detours and branch out. This is the pantser part of being a plantser! Spontaneity can provide interesting plot twists or new developments that move the story forward. Perhaps your original outline calls for your hero to eat dinner at a small tavern, but instead you have your protagonist swept into a band of travelling musicians who are performing at the royal wedding. You might not have planned that in your outline, but as your character marches into the castle beating a small drum, you now have an interesting new plot element. Perhaps the wedding is interrupted and new alliances are created—and your hero is somehow involved. Or a trap has been set in the castle for your protagonist, and the true danger of the quest becomes clear.
Plantsing means using your outline for guidance, but with the added benefit of being open to changes and mixing things up. The new elements will keep things interesting, while the outline makes sure your story about a quest doesn’t become sidelined by a subplot about the wedding singer.
When you’re ready to submit your short story or novel for publication, Writer’s Relief can help! Our expert researchers will target the best publishing opportunities and boost your odds of getting an acceptance! Learn more about our services, and submit your work to our Review Board today!
Question: Are you a plantser, pantser, or planner/plotter?