“Neither a panster nor plotter be —be both.”

Whenever a writer of fiction leaps into the unknown of a new story, he must ask himself whether he is a plotter or a panster. A panster does not plot, but allows the story to flow on wings of imagination. Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of imagination’s flying air force and let my pen roam free, or to allow the ropes of reason to dictate laws to bind my pen to the bulleted list and follow the one, two, three . . . who knows which is best? And when?

Sometimes as I write, I want to be a million miles away from any plotted plans. Other times I type red numbers into the text to keep track of events or character blocking marks. Any outline bit that occurs to me, I jot down for reference. I also feel free to cross them out or delete them as the story rolls past their limited views of imagination. Usually, there will be one or two good ideas left in a list of ten items that make the final cut. I do however believe that I wouldn’t have found the one or two good ones unless I had made that list of ten. Doing a second or third draft brings me more strongly to use definite plot points to guide me. When the laundry is dry on the line it is easier to reel in—in other words, during a rewrite I’m less invested in some of my sentences and more concerned with the flow of story, so it’s easier to re-arrange (or cut) paragraphs and sections of text. I don’t follow the rules, but I keep a wary eye on them lest they bite my book.

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2 Comments to ““Neither a panster nor plotter be —be both.””

  1. I’ve just started reading ‘Story Engineering’ by Larry Brooks and it’s amazing. It’s all about constructing a novel. You can pants it or plot it, but either way, you have to go in with something (i.e. pantsers go in with the ideas formulated in their heads). I’m on the fence. If I don’t plan, I crumble midway; if I plan, I lose inspiration. Hm, what a dilemma!

    I’d recommend this book to anyone. It’s one of the best fiction-writing guides I’ve read. I’ve got some more on my ‘Top book recommendations’ page too.

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