Feb 18, 2015

The Wonderful World of Plantsing

plotting (n.): a type of writing in which the writer plans (or plots) the majority of their novel before writing

pantsing (n.): a type of writing in which the writer very rarely plans, or doesn't plan at all, before writing, in which the writer writes by the "seat of his/her pants"

There, now that we have those pesky definitions out of the way- which you can read more in depth on in E.C. Jaeger's post- we can move on to the wonderful world of plantsing. But wait, you say. If plotting is planning beforehand, and pantsing is not planning beforehand, what on earth could plantsing possibly be? Then you have a lightbulb moment. Oh, you say, plantsing must be a combination of plotting and pantsing, right? To which I respond, correct indeed.

But plantsing is such a vast world, with so many ridges and mountains, valleys and oceans that have yet to be explored. I couldn't possibly describe all that plantsing encompasses in just this one post. I don't even know everything plantsing encompasses. But, I do have some ideas- just a few pictures, mind you- of a few of the mountains in the plantsing world.

First, we have the Character Plantser:

This plantser develops his/her cast of characters fully before diving into the story. They might conduct character interviews, take personality tests for their characters (like I do!), or write character journals. Figuring out the plot points, though? Eh, not so much.

I wish I could be this type of plantser. Characterization is probably one of my favorite parts of writing, and it comes so much easier to me than plotting does, but if I go into a first draft without at least a few major plot points figured out, it's really messy. Like, really, really, an avalanche-causing-earthquake just happened type of messy.

Then, we have the Key Points Plantser:

This is me. I figure out some of the major plot points before going into a new novel. For me, this usually includes the inciting incident, my MC's choice to go on the journey, midpoint, black moment (an all-is-lost moment that happens at the 75% point), and the climax. Some writers might have more plot points than this, or some might have only two or three. Or, they may have just as many points as I do, but they're different plot points. There's a lot of wiggle room here.

Now comes the Scattered Plantser:

This type of plantser is kind of similar to the Key Points Plantser. He/she will go into a first draft with a list of scenes in hand. However, these scenes aren't necessarily the major plot points or anything like that. These scenes are just random scenes that popped into their heads. Sometimes, it's just partial scenes, snippets of dialogue, a picture inspiring a scene, or a scene summary. But, they go in with scribbled musings that can start to form some sort of path for them as they begin to write.

Finally, there's the Headlights Plantser:

First, a disclaimer. I can't take credit for the use of "headlights" to describe this style of writing. I've read it on multiple other blogs about writing.

Now, onto the description. This writer may go into a first draft with a brief overview of events and often may also be one of the plantsers listed above. However, the writer who writes with this style really only plans the next few scenes as they write. They might plan them in detail, or it might just be a very brief overview of what's about to happen. They might plan two scenes ahead, or nine scenes ahead. I also fall into this category. While I only go into a first draft with major plot points, I'll usually start planning out the next few scenes as I go.

So, what about you guys? Are you a plantser? If so, which kind? Or are you one of those oddballs that's a full-on plotter? Or *gasp* are you a complete pantser? Tell me! :D

~Katheline Hansen


  1. Splendid post, Katheline! Originally, I was a complete pantser, but I learned that I have to do more plotting if I want to get anywhere, so I'm kind of a conglomeration of the Key Points Plantser, the Scattered Plantser, and a full-on plotter. I'm pretty weird. XD

    1. But weird's great lol XD We're all a little weird. I used to be a completely pantser too, but my first novel was a mess that I didn't have any idea how to salvage, so I've learned that at least a little bit of plotting is good. Lol XD

  2. I think I'm probably a plotter but I'm not absolutely sure. Other times I will start writing short story without a single idea of what's going to happen :)

    1. I know what you mean. I very rarely plot short stories. I usually just have an idea and start writing. Maybe that's why almost all of my short stories are either unfinished or incredibly short. XD