Pantsing Vs Plotting

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Written by JJ Barnes

In the Pantsing Vs Plotting debate, there are positives to both methods. You just need to work out what suits you best and how to do it well.

“Pantsing” comes from “fly by the seat of your pants”. It means to be making your story up as you go. Finding out what’s going to happen along the way.

Plotting” is where before you start writing, you work out your story. Who you characters are, key events in the story, what page count you’re aiming for etc in advance. Then you follow that plan as you work.

Pantsing Vs Plotting, The Table Read Writing Advice
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Being A Pantser Or A Plotter

For the pantsing vs plotting debate in my life, my writing partner and I have slightly different approaches. Jonathan McKinney is more of a plotter, but still has elements of pantser about his style. Whereas I am predominantly a pantser, but I have elements of plotter.

I think most writers exist somewhere on the spectrum rather than being entirely one or the other.

The reason I am mostly a pantser is because I like to be free. I get ideas all the time. I feel like if I plot too heavily in advance, I won’t be free to let those ideas grow. Sometimes I’ll follow a path down an idea I get when I’m writing, which if I was following a pre-conceived plot I would avoid because it’s an unexpected turn to take. I would miss out on something that’s actually really incredible and worth including.

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The Benefits Of Plotting Or Pantsing

Pantsing Vs Plotting, The Table Read Writing Advice
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The plotting I do in advance is minimal, I like to know the beginning, which is what I initially come up with and I like to understand what I’m going to do with it, and then I like to know my end.

I like to have an idea of what the climax of the story will be so I can steer my story in that direction. But I’m still very fluid with that end point. If when I’m writing I realise that I’m headed in a different direction than I expected, for whatever reason, I change my ending not my story.

I think it’s important to be ready to change your story if you find it doesn’t actually flow in the direction you first intended. If something just doesn’t belong, be prepared to not use it in this story. But if you love it, you can always use it in another story where it does belong.

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What Suits You?

When it comes to finding what style of writing suits you, it could be either depending on the story you are writing or depending on what you’re personally strongest at.

If you’re really strong at making the most of conflict in scenes, and finding the entertainment in each scene, then pantsing might suit you. You can just go into whatever scene you’re writing and create something that works because you’re naturally good at it. Pantsing is also more suited to a single Protagonist story that follows a series of events and building to a climax.

You might be great at building something, a world, a deep storyline, or a concept, and therefore it suits you better to plot carefully. If you’re writing something that needs to be carefully constructed, such as non-linear or multiple protagonist stories, then you will need to plot in advance to make sure you can steer it.

Ultimately, whatever method you choose to write your story, remember that in editing you can go back and fix anything that didn’t quite work out to make sure you get the best version of your story you can, so just choose what you feel more comfortable with and you’re probably going to be okay.

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I am an author, filmmaker, artist and youtuber, and I am the creator and editor of The Table Read.

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