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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Author Insight: Pantsers vs. Planners

As a writer, are you a pantser, a planner or some
combination of the two?

"I’m definitely a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pantser! :)" - Kim Derting, author of The Body Finder.

"I'm an outliner. I truly believe in the power of a good outline (if you've got a good structure, you've got a lot going for you), but pantsing has its moments. Usually when I'm starting a book or just hashing out an idea, I do a lot of prewriting. This is just me testing out the characters, having them say something to each other without thinking too hard about it, because it's going to be wrong. It's going to be oh so wrong and awful and not really sound like characters I want to have, at least in the beginning. But the more I do it, the more it solidifies who they are in my mind and how they really might speak to each other, once I start the book. These scenes never go anywhere, and they aren't meant to be part of the book. It's both a chance for me to practice working with new characters and ideas, and for me to test out the best ways to tell the story. Once I've got a good feel for things, then I start outlining." - Chelsea Campbell, author of Rise of Renegade X.

"I'm a combination of the two: write first, then plan, then revise, then plan, then revise .... I'm sure you see the pattern." - Swati Avashti, author of Split.

"Ha. You know I only heard the term “pantser” for the first time a few weeks ago? I used to be a pantser—but then again, I used to turn out 800 page novels with no plot. Now I rigorously outline my books before I begin seriously writing, so I can ensure that doesn’t happen. Although usually I do play around with the first few chapters without thinking too much about plot, just so I can get a sense of the characters, and the world of the book, and see whether it’s a story I want to pursue." - Lauren Oliver, author of Before I Fall.

"I write thorough outlines (the last one was 33,000 words) but honestly, I'm still kind of a pantser too. My books often take off in directions I don't expect during the actual first draft writing." - Denise Jade, author of Losing Faith.

"I'm recovering panster. I want to outline--I really do--but I can't seem to manage until I have a first draft in front of me. In some ways, the first draft is like a really long, detailed outline that just happens to be riddled with all kinds of experiments and dead-ends." - Brenna Yovanoff, author of The Replacement.

"Total pantser." - Leah Cypess, author of Mistwood.

"A really awkward combination of the two. I have a very general outline, and then I try to plan the 3-5 scenes in my immediate future. But I can't plan more than that or I lose focus and intensity in the writing itself. " - Victoria Schwab, author of The Near Witch.

"Since Margie and I write together, we start with an outline on these giant whiteboards in the office. We map out the book, in rough chapters, focusing on the plot points. Once we start writing, things evolve naturally, and the outline changes with it--another reason we use whiteboards. The main plot points remain the same, but the way we get there may change, especially when every time you get your chapters back, someone else has added and deleted. But while I'm actually writing, I hear the characters in my head. The story is playing out as I write, all I have to do is listen. It's the reason I write inn complete silence--I have to be able to hear them." - Kami Garcia, co-author of Beautiful Creatures.

"For 13 to Life I wrote by the seat of my pants, even immediately incorporating public opinion polls on a couple occasions. For my current WiP I'm planning/outlining like I have major control issues." Shannon Delany, author of 13 to Life: A Werewolf's Tale.

"Someday, my lack of motivation to outline is going to bite me in the butt. I’m two books into my series and so far that hasn’t happened. I don’t have the patience to outline, and the times I’ve tried, my characters (the ones that live in my head) have laughed at me. HA! <--Just like that." - Lisa Desrochers, author of Personal Demons.

"I was a pantser with the first book until I was two-thirds of the way in and realized I had painted myself into about ten corners. Then I outlined the rest of the book. I always loosely outline now." - Rhonda Hayter, author of The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams.

"I am a PLANTSER. I both pants and plan, depending on the situation. Lately I’ve been using a really cool Plot Punnett square (aka Plot-Tac-Toe) which I found on C.J. Omololu’s site (with thanks to Tessa Gratton): http://cynjay.blogspot.com/2009/02/how-to-write-book.html" - Tiffany Trent, author of the Hallowmere series.

"I’m a combo. As much as anyone plans, there will be moments when you have to let go of any outline or plan and let the story and characters run with it. I love those moments." - Amy Brecount White, author of Forget-Her-Nots.

"I’m a see-it-all-in-my-mind-as-a-movie-trailerer. I get a snapshot idea of the characters, the overarching plot, and some of the major events all at once, then I have to muddle my way through from point to point as I write the first draft. Lots of surprises along the way!" - Holly Cupala, author of Tell Me a Secret.

"I like having a general idea of where I'm going, but I don't need to know where I am at the moment if that makes any sense." - Alexandra Diaz, author of Of All the Stupid Things.

Come back Thursday to find out who else plans carefully and who's a little more devil-may-care...


  1. I love this! It's so fun to see how some of our favorite authors write - I loved BEFORE I FALL and I am drooling to read RENEGADE X. Thanks for a great post!

    I popped over from Sherry's blog. :-)

  2. Oooh, I really love these posts, they're really interesting and fun to read. And I'm sooo happy I'm not the only writer who is a pantser and a planner. Or as Tiffany Trent said, I'm a plantser.