Pantsing & plotting: Finding the balance


Pantsing versus plotting. This topic comes up a lot in the writing world.

Let’s start with what these two terms mean. Pantsing refers to jumping into a novel without having a plan for what will happen (writing by the seat of your pants), whereas plotting is all about, you guessed it, plotting your novel and going in with a good idea of what will happen.

A lot of writers pick one side or the other. You can be a plotter or a pantser, but I think finding the balance of both can really be the key to writing successfully.

For my novel, The Witches of Belle River, I started the writing process as a true pantser. I had characters and a tiny idea of what I wanted to happen, but beyond that I was clueless. It really worked for a while.

I’ve written about 30,000 words for The Witches of Belle River without a clear plot and I like what I’ve got, but I’ve slowly been finding it harder and harder to write. I couldn’t work out what had changed until I realised my writer’s block was partially caused by my lack of direction. I’ve reached the critical part of the story, shit is about to really go down, and that’s where the plotting comes in.

I’ve realised that to finish the novel, I now need to really focus on plotting. And that doesn’t mean my freedom to let the story take me where it wants is gone. Of course, I will still be a pantser at heart but with a little help and direction, I’ll be able to finish The Witches of Belle River!

So I’ve set up a document and have plotted out the novel and really brainstormed ideas for how it will end. This last half is crucial and it’s gonna take a bit more time and planning to get through. So that’s what I’m doing and so far it’s helping. It’s amazing what a little bit of structure can do for ideas. Although it might be easy to think that ideas come through freedom, they can definitely flourish with a bit of help.

I really don’t think it should be pantsing VERSUS plotting, I think we should look at pantsing AND plotting. Find the balance between both that helps you to write your novel. Write down ideas, brainstorm, note down chapters or go in with nothing but an idea. I’d definitely recommend that writers suffering from writer’s block look at changing up how they work. If you’re normally a plotter, try breaking away from the plot and see what comes of it, and if you’re a pantser, sit yourself down and do some plotting! You never know, this might be the difference between finishing and not finishing your book.

Happy writing!

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