Pantser versus Plotter: Yeah, nope.

Pantser versus Plotter: Yeah, nope.

Ready for the hot topic of the night? Pantser versus plotter: which way is right? Which way is better? 

My answer: no.

Wait, what?

Which came first? The chicken or the egg?

That's right guys, I'm here to tell you the debate is flawed. There's no right answer here, sort of like the chicken and the egg. You won't ever know which came first because the chicken relies on the egg which relies on the chicken and an indefinite loop keeps theorists busy forever.

They're distracted by the debate, and so are you if you're still having fun with that ol' argument about plotting and pantsing. The chicken and the egg aren't important: evolution is. Plotting and pantsing isn't important: creating a story is.

But some of us need to plot to create. Some of us can't create if we plot. Wah wah wah. Guess what, it's been a really long time since the first chicken or the first egg started the cycle, and the chickens and eggs are still being born.

The debate is flawed. Ready to hear why?

You already did both.

You brainstormed an idea. That's pantsing. You came up with more firm details. That's plotting. The second you say, "I have an idea about..." you've done both.

Stop worrying about which one is better. They are intricately linked.

It took me two million words to get it, by the way. I'm preaching at the choir, boys and girls, because uhm, two million words before I 'got it'. What did I get?

Well, I thought I was a pantser first. I wrote a six book fantasy series with no outline or world-building, just went for it, ya know?

Then I realized it had no animals. Not a single animal.

And a I realized I was a plotter. Had to be. If I'd planned it better, I'd have put in goddamned animals.

Made an outline, beautiful outline, changed stuff in it - added scenes with animals for one. So detailed it was like a paragraph per scene and there were about four scenes per chapter and about thirty chapters per novel so my outline was at least 120 paragraphs per book. Wtf?

Well, I wrote it.

The scenes were detailed how I liked. Animals in them.

And it was the most text-book boring story in existence. World sure was great though. Could describe the plant life down to the way the fuzz looked on a hybrid combo of two flowers native only to one desert. The story itself? Logical. Flowing. Cool.

The characters did what I wanted.




My characters have always been their own personalities, lived their own lives. They change the story because they're more than words on a paper: they're motivations, emotional reactions, surprised laughs, anger outbursts, depression, joy, death glares across crowded camps. You can't "outline" for each of those moments because you're just writing the story at that point. 

But each of those moments? They can define the next, and the next, and the next. If you got a death glare, will your mood change? If your mood changes, will your actions change? If your action changes, will the plot change?

Right, attempt one: no animals (or other elements needed for fantasy worlds). And attempt two: no room for character depth to lend emotional complexity to a story that relies on it.

I get it now.

I'm not a pantser.

I'm not a plotter.

I'm a writer. A storyteller.

Storytellers make stuff up, folks.

Some of that stuff is made up as they go. That's the writing, the words on the paper, the typing of keys.

Sometimes of that stuff is planned. That's thinking it through. You can think it through in your head, or you can write it down on paper to remember it better. Or use to do that for you.

Either way, you're never just plotting. You're never just pantsing. 

Debating is fun. The egg-chicken cycle is fun. The pants-plot cycle is fun. If your end goal is debating for fun, keep it up.

But if your end goal is to write a story, forget the argument. Get off the forums. Put away google. Work on your story, damn it.

The world needs books, not debates.