A few months ago I was asked at a writing meeting if I was a pantser or a plotter. The question threw me for a moment because I’d never heard the term panster before. The question meant, do I write using a designated plot line or do I wing it and write – literally – by the seat of my pants. After some thought I realized I do a little of both.
I’ve always been the kind of person that needs direction and focus. Maybe it’s because I’m a nurse and have a scientific, logic based education. But when I look back over my life I see I’ve always been the type to want to know where we were going, when were we going to get there, and then what were we going to do. I’m not an aimless ambler, walking about for the beauty of the walk. I like to know where I’m headed and have a course plotted. GPS was made for people like me.
It’s the same with my writing. When I have an idea for a story or a character, I imagine what will happen and then decide how and where I want to take it/them. I write everything down, every plot point I can conceive, and I always know the ending before I begin. Now that’s easy with the romance stuff: the ending is always the happily ever after tag line. But when I write my mysteries, I always know “who-done-it,” why, and how before the words fly off my fingers and into the laptop. I do allow road stops and tours occasionally ( the pantser part of me) but I find I am more productive when I have an end goal in sight.
I know the writers who are strictly pantser-prone will say that I take the fun out of the adventure. Not knowing where you are headed is half the fun, they will tell you, because you get to navigate through twists and snares and struggles along with your characters. But I do that anyway because – hello! – I created those twists and snare and struggles! Sometimes, though, I will admit that the plot is revised when a point arises that I didn’t think of and should be dealt with.
So, are you a pantser or a plotter or a combo like me?