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Plotter or Pantser & Does it Matter?

The answer is NO.

This could clearly be a very short blog post, but let me elaborate.

Most writers fall into one of the above categories, (although some are a mixture of the two). First let's talk about what I mean when I use these terms incase you're not familiar. A Plotter is someone who meticulously plans out their novel, often with complete character arcs and back stories. They use chapter by chapter break downs. They don't just have a road map of the story they know exactly when they're going to stop for petrol and which service stations have the best toilets.

Pantser - if you haven't figured it out are people who fly by the seat of their pants. They don't have a map, they know roughly where they want to end up and they're just going to see where the journey takes them.

At first glance you might be thinking, well the second lot of people are mad, that can't possibly work. And if you've just started out on your writing journey you're going to have had lots of people on social media etc tell you that you have to be a plotter, that it's the only professional way to do it. To that I say tell that to Stephen King, James Oswald and Ann Cleeves to name a few.

Here's the thing, as with all things creative there isn't a right or wrong process, all that's important is you understand what yours needs to be. Then you work on making that process as good as it can possibly be.

My friend and fellow author Marion Todd is a fastidious planner, she has spreadsheets for days and I both admire and fear her for this. I on the other hand, am a pantser, I think those who know me IRL won't find that too shocking.

It's easy to get sucked into the idea that one way is the only true way - I did, I planned a novel - characters, chapters etc, etc. I never wrote it but I planned the hell out of it. The trouble was by the time I'd done all of that I'd sucked all the joy of the story out of it. This was the moment that I realised that I couldn't write like that, it drained my creativity and stopped me in my tracks. Instead I went with a much looser approach, I have my characters, a story idea and a rough idea of how it's going to go - 5 bullet points at most. When I started writing like this I started getting somewhere.

It doesn't matter how you do it as long as you do your way to the best of your ability. I know that when it comes to my first round of editing I'm going to have a big job. I need to make sure all the timelines and characters work and that I haven't left any loose ends or plot holes. I take far more notes during this stage than I do before I set out to write.

Neither option is easy, you still have to create whole worlds and fictional people that readers care about, along with great plots and storylines. I'll refer you back to my original answer - it doesn't matter how you do it.

It's important not to be blindsided by well meaning people telling you that Stephen King only gets to be a pantser because, well, he's Stephen King and you are not. He's an internationally best seller and you are you. My answer to that is always this - Stephen King wasn't always 'STEPHEN KING' and I don't for one minute think he spent his early creative endeavours planning only then to go 'sod it I'm too famous for this nonsense'. (I could be wrong - I don't know him).

This is one of those occasions where the statement 'you do you' actually applies. I would add to this that people evolve and I've known planners become pantsers and vice versa. As long as that's an organic part of your journey rather than something mandated to you it's all good.

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