Plotting Versus Pantsing Versus Plantsing

What’s pantsing, you say? In the writing world you run into the strangest vocabulary. We literally make up things for a living (or hobby) so it’s no surprise that we also make up words.

Pantsing is derived from the expression “flying by the seat of your pants”. In writing terminology, pantsing means to write a work of fiction with no outline or formal plan. That is sometimes true, but most of the time, even pantsers have a good idea of where the story will go. In essence, it’s discovering the plot as you write the story.

Some argue that pantsing is making more work for yourself. Some argue that the pantsed draft is the 0 draft and an outline to build upon.

Plotting is writing an outline that dictates when the major turning points of the story will be. For more details on how to plot, I’d suggest reading up on the subject, taking a workshop either online or in person, or dissecting your favorite book into four major turning points. Writers are readers. Students of writing to old pros need to learn craft.

Which is better?

That’s a personal choice. Like a painter, you might want at least a rough sketch of what the story is going to look like, but some claim a detailed outline or an outline at all stumps their creativity.

Personally, I like plantsing. It’s plotting a bit but not in detail and letting the story go off that outline and in another direction if needed. I ask myself a lot of what ifs. I ask myself, what is the central theme? I jog down some notes, and a few times, I’ve created a detailed outline in Scrivener. I may never look at that outline again, but at least I have mapped out from the abstract to the concrete how I want the story to go.

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