Plotting for Pantsers

There are two main species of writers: outliners and pantsers. Sometimes called “gardeners” by George R.R. Martin, a pantser (Jerry Jenkins coined the term, by the way) is someone who writes without an outline, or by the seat of their pants. (Hence, the name)

I’m going to start by saying that there is no one right way to write. If you’re a pantser, don’t try to become an outliner (although trying out outlining might have some merit), and if you’re an outliner, don’t try to live without an outline. We all have our respective ways of writing, and no way is necessarily “better” than another. The best way for someone to write depends on what kind of person you are.

This article is directed toward pantsers (like myself), but even if you prefer working with an outline you’ll probably get something out of this article. Who knows? You might decide to try writing without an outline. (Although, under any circumstances I would recommend writing in whatever way feels best to you)

Anyway, that being said, outlining and pantsing both have their respective strengths and weaknesses. Pantsers, however, usually suffer from lack of robust plot development. As the name suggests, a “plot” must be planned. Since pantsers believe that plans are overrated, it can be tougher on them to build a robust plot.

I don’t have a ton of really helpful suggestions for you, as this is something that is probably going to be resolved upon further editing. However, since I am a pantser and I’ve come to terms with this (and if you’re like me, this should be your first step as well) I can offer a few humble solutions.

Solution #1: Just try an outline. The word “outline” strikes terror into the hearts of many a writer, myself included. However, if you find yourself struggling to stick to the idea of a main plot, you should try making a custom-made outline for your story just as a way of trying something new.

Please note that I’m not recommending you try the IEW KWO with the “header A, sub header 1, and i, ii, and iii under that”. That’s for academics, not for storywriting. When I say “outline”, I mean basically a short summary of plot, characters, setting, and worldbuilding.

Solution #2: Just plot 6-7 important occurrences in the story. Just open up a Word doc and type up descriptions of a few of the most important occurrences, when they happen, and who they include. This should motivate your plot to fit 6-7 interesting and important occurrences and greatly help in your plotting.

Solution #3: Have a firm but opaque picture of the ending. Now, if you’re like any pantser I know, you don’t want a clear view of the ending. That takes all the fun out of actually writing it. However, you should have a vague idea that one or two things should happen before or after the ultimate battle. That will help you set the plot so that the ending makes sense.

If you’re looking for more advice on plot from a writer who’s far better at his art than I am, be sure to check out this video:

Good luck, and happy writing!

Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Until then, writers!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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