One of the coolest things about Twitter’s #WritingCommunity is its diversity. It’s a group of people from all over the world, at different stages of their writing journey, in a vast range of careers and fields—not to mention the innumerable genres out there.
Each of these writers has developed and continues to evolve their particular writing process for creating new story, be it a short story or a long novel, and each generally falls into one of three zones:
While some writers pay little attention to these titles, others take them as seriously as others take their Hogwarts House.
In this three-part series, I’ll be discussing the common traits of each of these writers.
This week, we’re talking about Pantsers.
A Pantser is a writer who writes by the seat of their pants. These are the writers who just dive into a project headfirst and let the story take them wherever it wants to go. Their methods are more spontaneous than Planners, as they just go with the flow rather than follow an outline and let the characters surprise them as they go along.
Planners are sometimes considered as more flexible than Planners, as they don’t have an outline to adhere to and can go in any direction they choose (or sometimes don’t choose, depending on how their story progresses).
However, this freedom can be problematic for Pantsers. If they allow themselves to wander too far from the story’s path, it can be hard for them to redirect themselves because of how many rabbit holes they’ve jumped down. Let’s say you’re a Pantser writing a YA fantasy novel where the protagonist is put on a quest to find a powerful jewel at the behest of the kingdom’s prince ahead of his coronation to avenge his brother’s untimely death.
You go with the flow and reach the midway point. The protagonist, along with his new merchant love interest who snuck her way in around Chapter Five and several other characters decide to stop for a rest in a town along the way. The protagonist wanders around for a bit before meeting a kindly old spinster who offers him a cup of tea and some information about the town’s history. This doesn’t do much for the overall arc, but you decide to keep it.
This is an example of why a Pantser is sometimes more equipped to make significant scene cuts while editing than their Planner counterparts. A Planner typically constructs an outline they go by, which can result in fewer scenes to cut because they already decided which are the most pertinent through the outlining stages of their process.
However, a Planner’s outline also comes with its advantages. Because they’ve created an outline, a Planner might be more able to establish clear deadlines and has a reference guide at their fingertips in case they get stuck. A Pantser, however, can be more subject to Writer’s Block. Their approach has the potential to cause plot holes in the middle of the story, as they may not know what their endgame is.
At the same time, a Pantser’s exploration can open up new plot points without requiring an entire reworking of an outline, as a Planner would face. Pantsers only have to keep going forth (and keep track of what has been changed in their wake).
Overall, it may seem like a Planner has more power than a Pantser. This is not the case. It’s not about one being more in control than another, but both possessing two different kinds of power.
Check back next week for the third post and final post in this series!
Missed last week’s post on Planners? Check it out here!