Plotter or Pantster – Does it Matter?

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Plotter or Pantster – Does it Matter?

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I’m a pantster.

What does that mean? A pantster is a writer who writes by the seat of their pants. We don’t create detailed outlines of our story. We don’t have whiteboards filled with post-it notes detailing all the plot twists and turns in our novel. We don’t have color coded spreadsheets or long word documents with character analysis or character interviews.Reminder notes on the bright colorful paper

We sit at our computers and write.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I admire people who can do all that planning – plotters. I love the look of the whiteboard with post-its. I’ve seen photos of these beautiful boards that other authors develop, and for a moment or two, I envy them their ability to make something that looks so organized, so well thought out.

I’ve even heard of one author whose books I pre-order the moment I hear about them, who has all the books in her series planned out on whiteboards or spreadsheets or maps of some kind and all of the people and plots are carried throughout the entire series. Wow.

I’ve tried to work that way. I’ve done character development outlines and followed the many plans I’ve learned in writing workshops (more than I care to remember). I’ve followed three-part structure plans and “famous editor” workbooks, but by the time I finish putting one of those together, I don’t want to write the story anymore. I know the ending, I know everything that is going to happen, and for me, that spells death. The death of the story, the death of my interest, the death of any creative juice I might have had when I first conceived of the story idea.

These two styles – panster and plotter – likely have many variations of writers who populate the entire spectrum from serious plotter to plotting dabbler, to seat of the pants writer who doesn’t know the end of their story until they write it. But the point is that there are many types of writers, with different working styles. No one working style is “the correct one.” Whatever works, works.

Now, off to see what happens to Elizabeth, the heroine in my next book in the Marshall Family series.


About the author

Marlie Bridges
You Belong To Me by Marlie Bridges Available on Amazon

4 Comments so far:

  1. Diane Burton says:

    Good description of a pantser. I’m sort of one, too. I say sort of because I usually have a rough idea of how the story will start, what might happened along the way, and the ending. No formal outline, though, and the characters always throw in a surprise or two or more. LOL

  2. Marlie says:


    I usually have a rough idea, too. I often know the beginning and the end, and a few plot points along the way. But often, my characters surprise me, especially in dialogue that then leads me to another place. But that is the creative part to me.

    Thank you,

  3. Tammy J. Palmer says:

    I’m a pantster too! We should start a club. I write to find out what’s going to happen. Just the other day I sent my hero to the heroine’s house with flowers in hand to apologize. She was supposed to forgive him. Turns out she wasn’t ready yet. She knew more than I did. The most important thing we writers can do, is let our characters live.

  4. Marlie says:


    That is the kind of thing that happens to me. The character says or does something (while I’m writing) that surprises even me. I love that!


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