Writer: Pantster or Outliner?

Which is better? Does it matter? Do you even know what I’m talking about?

A pantster is a writer who works with little to no outline, writing without a net from scene to scene, chapter to chapter.
An outliner is the opposite, one who works with a strict outline, every scene diagrammed and plotted for maximum effect and organization.  

Is one better than the other?  Hmm… not really.  It all depends on your style and the way your brain functions.  I also happen to believe it also depends on how much experience/confidence you have as a writer–though that’s speculation.  

Here’s my reasoning:

When I first started writing a million years ago at 15 (I’m now 42 this Friday — control your shocked faces) I used the outline method because I was taught to do so and because I needed it.  Being a very novice writer, my thoughts and ideas were scattered and nebulous most of the time (and usually juvenile) but hey, you gotta start somewhere.  It worked for me somewhat, and I cranked out three novel length stories (originals) by the time I was 20 plus dozens of short stories. I spend hours creating character profiles with pictures cut out of magazines and traits detailed out with back stories, etc, etc.  But then I discovered a problem … I would start these great outlines with some good ideas and stare at my Brother word processer (ah the days before laptops! internet! and really decent home PCs);  I was stymied, and try as I might, nothing flowed easily anymore.  Writer’s block?  Mmm… maybe.  Or just blocked by a rigid outline?  

Fast forward to the present: I started writing again without outlines, just a basic idea with major plot points in my head that I wanted to achieve, then I dove in.  No character profiles, usually I don’t even have names for anyone other than my main characters.  I just dive right in and write and write and write! You know what I’ve discovered?  Being a pantster opens you up to ridiculous amounts of spontaneous creativity.  Things I probably never would’ve thought of fall into my laptop as I write, often the most brilliant dialogue or climatic scenes.  I find myself connecting with ‘the zone’ of writing far easier than I ever did when I outlined everything.  All I need is an idea and a direction and I’m off.  Hell, I usually don’t even know how the story ends, or if I do, I have no idea how I’m going to get to that ending until I get to that transitional scene.  But I’ve learned to have faith in my muse and my ability to spin the plot to achieve the results I desire.  And the more I do it, the easier it gets.

I love the freedom of being a pantster!  I feel like it’s opened up an endless supply of creativity for my writing that I never experienced years ago when I outlined everything to death.  Working without a net can be scary, but it’s taken my writing to levels I’d only dreamed of.

So Pantster or Outliner?  For me, now, definitely Pantster…

For you?


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