How to Be a Writer: Are You a Plotter or a Pantser? + Writing Resources

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you have any idea what those two terms mean? If you don't check out this post on Writing Abby for the details AND some writing resources that compliment your writing process. How to be a Writer: Are You a Plotter or a Pantser? // Writing AbbyA while back, I mentioned in the first post of the How to Be a Writer series, about “plotters” and “pantsers”. Today, I’d like to go into more detail about those two terms. They’re pretty important words in the writing world, because they explain in a single word what your writing process is. Once you discover your writing process, the writing life becomes much easier.

(If you already know if you’re a plotter or pantser, skip these sections to get some serious writing resources.)


PLOTTERS

If you spend hours on Google searching for new plotting techniques, then you might be a plotter.

Plotters love to plot, as inferred by their title. The plotter enjoys brainstorming. He can’t bear to start a writing session without a detailed outline on how to do it. He might believe that writing is a science, and should be executed logically.

The plotter loves books on writing, especially on plotting and creating characters. He enjoys discovering the characters in his novel BEFORE writing that first draft. The plotter needs to know his story as if it were his best friend, and he does this by filling out seemingly endless novel worksheets, character templates, and other methods of outlining.

So, are you a plotter?

Do you:

  • Spend more time tweaking your outline than you spend writing? (Guilty.)
  • Need to flesh out your plot before you start your first draft?
  • Like to brainstorm?
  • Need to discover your characters’ motives, goals, personalities, and relationships before you start your first draft?
  • Scour various sites in order to find the perfect names for your characters? Likewise for their occupations?
  • Fill your bookshelf with so many writing books on plotting that you could start your own public library?
  • Hate to improvise during a writing session?

Now, let’s discover the “pantser”.

PANTSERS

If you cringe at the thought of wasting time outlining, then you might be a pantser.

The pantser enjoys the discovery of his story. He’s a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of a writer. He likes to find out more about his story as he writes, instead of planning it out before. He enjoys improvising, since that’s what his writing is. The pantser improvises everything about his writing, from the plot points down to the character’s eye color.

On occasion, his stories change course so drastically that his contemporary dystopia becomes a historical romance. That’s the most common trait of a pantser. Sometimes, the pantser doesn’t even know the names of his characters until the second draft.

So, are you a pantser?

Do you:

  • Notice that your characters change eye color during the course of your stories?
  • Get bored with your writing projects, and then you start working on a new one?
  • Notice that your stories change theme quite often?
  • Feel stifled by standard plotting techniques?
  • Often spend a lot of time revising your work?
  • Believe that outlines ruin the fun of writing?
  • Often get “writer’s block”?

So, now that we know what those terms mean, here are some resources to help you compliment your writing process. Read through this list, and choose which resource compliments you and your writing.

Writing Resources

Writing Programs:

Scrivener
(Recommended For: Plotters)

I recommend Scrivener for just about everybody, even non-writers. Scrivener is a great writing program. It keeps your writing, your notes, and your progress, neat and organized.

Notebook & Pen
(Recommended For: Pantsers)

This is one of the best tools in a writer’s arsenal. It may not be fancy, or modern, but it’s a great way to get the words onto paper and out of our heads.

Microsoft Word
(Recommended For: Pantsers)

Word is a well-known and reliable writing software, and an industry standard. You probably have it installed on your computer already.

PageFour
(Recommended For: Plotters)

I know a few writers who use this program. PageFour is a simple piece of software for creative writers. This is a good, free alternative to Scrivener.

YWriter
(Recommended For: Plotters)

Another alternative to Scrivener. YWriter is a word processing and note organizing program. It’s also free, but you’re encouraged to register your copy if you enjoy it. (And speaking as a programmer, I encourage you to do so, as well.)

StoryBlue
(Recommended For: Plotters & Pantsers)

This software is so simple even I could use it. StoryBlue can chart your daily word count, and organize just about everything involving your story. Even your notes.

Hiveword
(Recommended For: Plotters)

Unlike the programs mentioned above, this software is Internet-based. So, instead of downloading it onto your desktop, it’s hosted online. It’s free, but it’s still a pretty powerful note-organizer.


Character Worksheets

Ultimate Character Questionnaire
(Recommended For: Plotters)

This is a comprehensive character questionnaire that covers everything from a character’s mental state to what his favorite color is. (Because we all want to know what that is, don’t we?)

Main Character Worksheet
(Recommended For: Pantsers)

This is a good worksheet for main characters. It’s simple, efficient, and gets the job done.

Character Profiles
(Recommended For: Pantsers)

This page from Creative Writing Now has two worksheets, one for adult characters and another for child characters. Pretty neat, if I may say so. There’s also some bonus questions at the bottom of the page, if you’ve got some time to kill.

46-Question Character Questionnaire
(Recommended For: Plotters)

Originally listed in the Young Writers Program’s Novel Workbook, this questionnaire was designed by the folks behind NaNoWriMo. It’s not my favorite questionnaire, but I thought I’d list it anyway.


Plotting Worksheets

Story Writing Help
(Recommended For: Pantsers)

This worksheet is about as simple as it gets, when it comes to plotting. Just answer a few questions, and you’ve got a basic outline of your plot. And I mean basic.

The Snowflake Method
(Recommended For: Plotters)

The Snowflake Method has garnered a lot of attention lately for its inventive, and helpful, plotting style. I highly recommend checking this method out. You can adjust the steps to fit your needs, if necessary.

Save the Cat beat sheet
(Recommended For: Pantsers)

Based on the best-selling screen writer’s book by Blake Snyder, “Save the Cat”, this beat sheet follows the advice given in that book. You can still use this beat sheet if you haven’t read the book, and still understand the terminology.

Story Engineering beat sheet
(Recommended For: Plotters)

Inspired by Larry Brooks’ “Story Engineering”, this beat sheet is simple yet detailed. You go through three of your story’s acts, and write down the important milestones that occur.

Save the Cat and Story Engineering Master beat sheet
(Recommended For: Plotters)

If you can’t decide which of the aforementioned beat sheets to use, this beat sheet combines them both.

Six Stage Plot Structure
(RECOMMENDED For: Pantsers)

Most plotting worksheets focus on the external conflict resolution, but this worksheet deals with the character’s internal conflict. I suggest using this worksheet in conjunction with another.

Structuring Your Novel and Outlining Your Novel
(Recommended For: Plotters)

If you’re looking for a few books on story structure, I suggest K.M Weiland’s “Structuring Your Novel” and “Outlining Your Novel”. There are companion workbooks that you can purchase separately, but you can use the workbooks without having bought the main books.


Mind-mapping Software

Scapple
(Recommended For: Pantsers)

Designed by the team behind Scrivener, their new mind-mapping program Scapple is just as simple and just as powerful. You can obtain a free trial at the Literature & Latte website.

XMind
(Recommended For: Pantsers)

This is an extremely popular mind-mapping tool. It’s easy to understand why, once you try out the software. With a beautiful and feature-rich interface, this program deserves its top spot among mind-mapping software.

Coggle
(Recommended For: Pantsers)

Coggle is a pretty neat mind-mapping software. It has a beautiful interface, and it seems simple to use.I also love it when I can change the colors of the maps I draw/create I and this program helps me do that — on the Web.


Storyboarding

Pinterest
(Recommended For: Plotters & Pantsers)

So far, I haven’t come across any other software that can rival the storyboarding potential of Pinterest. You can search and find inspiration relevant to your story easily.


So, tell me, are you a plotter or a pantser? What are your favorite writing resources?

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5 thoughts on “How to Be a Writer: Are You a Plotter or a Pantser? + Writing Resources

  1. This is so great! I’m a total pantser, but I’m moving on to the 2nd book in a trilogy and feel like I need at least a basic outline. Your list of plotting worksheets was just what I needed. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad you liked the post, Hannah! Good luck with the second book in your trilogy, I’ve heard about how hard those are to write. But, of course, you’ll do an awesome job — as usual.

      You’re welcome for the list of worksheets, I hope they help you out a little. If not, please let me know.
      –Abby

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