Planner, Pantser… Maybe a Planster

I’ll start off by explaining what the three P’s mean for any new writers out there who might be coming across these terms for the first time.

grayscale photography of person holding pen

“PLANNER”: this is pretty self-explanatory. It’s someone who outlines their plot, characters and world. Planners often believe that having a detailed outline will make the process of writing the draft much clearer and faster.

silhouette of bird flying

“PANTSER”: often described as someone who flies by the seat of their pants, meaning they discover the plot, the characters and the other details as they write.

black pen near iphone and apple magic keyboard

“PLANTSER”: as the combination of both words suggests, it is someone who does a little of both.


What am I?

When I started working on my novel last October, I was definitely a PLANNER. I couldn’t fathom how some writers manage to dive straight into their stories without creating an outline first. Personally, I was so nervous that I’d miss an important scene, have gaping plot holes or mix up the whole thing so bad that I’d just have to scrap it and start again.

So, I spent roughly a month and a half on making an outline that consisted of these details:

  • The Premise – What is the situation? Who is the protagonist and what is their objective? Who is the antagonist and what is their objective? What is the disaster/conflict? How will it end?
  • Timeline
  • Scene list
  • Character profiles
  • Setting/World building

And, I have to admit, while I was writing the first few chapters, I would constantly refer back to the outline to be certain that I wasn’t straying from the plan, to avoid ruining the story with details that don’t tie in.

But after a while I found this to be incredibly restrictive, because as I wrote, I would think of improved scenes, deeper character arcs and better plot twists. It didn’t make sense for me pass up on these improvements just to keep to my initial outline. Or for the fear of plot holes.

This gave me a better understanding of PANTSERS, and their desire to be creatively free to explore all possibilities of their stories without limiting themselves to a fledgling idea.

Currently, I’m almost half way through the completion of my first draft and it has probably been about three months since I looked at the outline. I’ve changed a number of things to develop the story into something that I’m even more excited about writing.

But do I regret creating the outline?

No, I don’t.

The outline helped me set the foundation of the story, giving me direction and confidence (as a first time writer) to get started on the first draft. But that confidence is growing the more I write (even if I don’t stick to all the details of the outline), because I become more and more familiar with my characters, world and plot/sub-plots.

What this process has taught me so far, is that my plan didn’t have to be perfect and could be used more as a guideline than a strict outline. For my next project, I doubt I will spend as much time planning every single detail because I think a basic outline will suffice. That way, I can have some wiggle room to discover other elements as I write.

I am definitely a PLANTSER.

What are you?


4 thoughts on “Planner, Pantser… Maybe a Planster”

    1. I agree. When I first started I thought a thorough plan was vital, but like you said, a basic premise is enough. I’m sure there are writers out there who still prefer the detailed outlines, but it’s just about figuring out what works for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Probably a fellow plantser. I don’t write it down, but I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m doing when I’m not writing. I also find a major part of editing to be writing out a plot outline as you reread, to make sure it doesn’t go too crazy

    Liked by 1 person

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