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Friday, April 23, 2010

More Author Insight: Pantsers vs. Planners

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

"I'm a pantser. But I say that with a caveat. If, by 20,000 words into a book, I have no idea what the end is, the book will never get finished. I also tend to throw away around 30,000 words' worth of beginnings before I get to the actual beginning. I get to know the world and the characters in those failed openers, so it's probably a lot like outlining, only the really hard way." - Saundra Mitchell, author of Shadowed Summer.

"During the first draft, I ramble all over the place. I often use a very sketchy outline to give me a sense of where I’m going and where I think I’ll end up, but I don’t use a serious, detailed outline until I’m revising." - Jennifer Hubbard, author of The Secret Year.

"I have no idea. I used to think I knew, but right now I feel like I don't have a process. It's different with every book. Except for the general flailing that seems to happen when I first start. FLAIL. (I'm a flailer.)" - Tessa Gratton, author of Blood Magic.

"A combination of the two... I outline, and then the outline changes quite a bit as I draft." - Lisa Mantchev, author of the Theater Illuminata series.

"I’m a combination. I let it fly in the beginning to get to know my characters. Once I’ve waded in a bit, I’ll outline by listing chapter and scene ideas on note cards so I can easily shuffle around as I plan the order of things." - Kristina McBride, author of The Tension of Opposites.

"Before I was published, I was more of a pantser. Since then, my editor wants outlines and synopsis’ and such, so I’ve learned to plan and outline out of necessity. It actually helps, I’ve discovered, to know where the story is going." - Julie Kagawa, author of The Iron King.

"To be honest, I've always been a pantser who has the whole thing already in my head and is just taking time to write it all down. I liken it to minding your own business and meandering into an epiphany cloud where the book's been sitting there waiting for a hapless victim or unintentionally picking up the right radio frequency in your fillings. Planning often kills my creativity for the first draft. However, it's *essential* for revisions." - Dawn Metcalf, author of Skin & Bones.

"I still haven't figured it out. I think a combination of the two." - Shauri Maurer, author of Change of Heart.

"Mostly a pantser, but I do some planning shortly after I begin so I know where I'm going and to make sure I don't take the wrong turns getting there!" - Lisa Schroeder, author of Chasing Brooklyn.

"I'm totally a pantser!" - Michelle Zink, author of Prophecy of Sisters.

"I am a plotter because that works well for me, but I only plan my plot, not my characters. First, I create a rough outline and then I begin to plug more and more details into it, until each chapter outline is a page or so long. I may even add snippets of dialogue, that’s how detailed my outline is. After I create the outline, writing the story is the easy part! I don’t plan my characters, however. When I begin writing, I usually only know a few basic facts about a character like their age, gender, and name. I see the writing process as the characters explaining themselves and their story to me. Writing the book is the way I get to know my characters. I learn how they feel or react to situations and what motivates them as I write." - Riley Carney, author of The Fire Stone.

"I’m some weird combination of the two. I tend to overwrite, so if I don’t have some kind of outline the plot will lose focus and I’ll get lost in tangents. That said, my outlines usually consist of oh-so-helpful notes like, “Character goes from point A to point B? Wagon?? Horse?? Or skip and go to point C??” So I guess I have to know where the plot is going, but I like to give myself freedom on how to get there." - Alexandra Bracken, author of Brightly Woven.

"Planner." - Bonnie Doerr, author of Island Sting.

"Planner. The advice to outline led to a sellable draft of Nice and Mean, and finding outlining systems for my subsequent stories has saved me a huge amount of time." - Jessica Leader, author of Nice and Mean.

"Definitely a combo. I start with inspiration. I get pretty far before I have to go back and plan...and at that point, I need to discover my character. Then I plan around her/him, and then it flows again." - Janet Fox, author of Faithful.

"I'm a pantser. I try and try to plan, but I end up abandoning the plan a couple of chapters in, anyway." - Steph Bowe, author of Girl Saves Boy.

"If I plan out my stories, I lose interest in them quickly. I always have a general idea of what I want to write, but I usually let the details come out as I go." - Suzanne Young, author of The Naughty List.


Come back Tuesday to find out how authors choose what point-of-view they write in!


  1. Thanks for this informative look at writing styles.
    I also learned a new word pantser! I thought it had to do with wearing pants! It also seems that I am one as I only know where I want the book or story to wind up and have fun getting there. :)

  2. It's so interesting to see how everyone's mind works. Thanks for the post!

  3. What an AWESOME post! Look at all those different styles.