Monday, 18 March 2013

Plotting vs. Pansing

In most writing circles, you will be asked the question "Are you a plotter or a panser?". As an MFA student, I study both of these methods, but mainly plotting. A suspenseful plot is essential to a creating a book that the reader just can't put down.

That's what I set out to do when writing, Unraveled. I wanted to write a book that would keep you up reading at night. So which one am I? I'm a panser.

I generally know how I want to start my book, what the major crisis is going to be, and how it's going to end. Everything else, I leave up to my characters.

The character of Mami is a perfect example of why pansing works for me. In the earlier drafts of Unraveled, I had Autumn be part of strong, tight Hispanic family. I love my Hispanic roots and wanted to feature some highlights. One day when I was writing a particular scene (I don't want to include any spoilers just in case...), Mami just got pissed off and completely took over the scene. As a writer, I love when that happens. Mami ended up giving me an enticing subplot that I had never even considered.

I also really enjoy examining the plots of books that the YA audience is drawn to, such as Twilight, Hunger Games, Divergent, etc. Why do they resonant with the audience? Why do we continue to purchase each book in the series? Why can't we wait for the movies to come out? Yes, it's partly because of the characters, but it's because we want to see what happens to these characters, what obstacles are thrown in front of them, and how they handle it (plot).

Fan Fiction is an excellent way to spin your own plotline into an existing series. You can take characters in new directions. I would love to see some fan fiction based on Unraveled characters: Autumn, Caedon, or Eduardo.

If you ever write some, please let me know.

Happy Monday,

S.X. Bradley


  1. Pantsers rule! My best ideas tend to hit me when I'm in the middle of writing. I've tried plotting, but that doesn't really work for me. How can it? I don't know for sure what's going to happen until I actually get there.

    Remember, if the writer doesn't know what happens next, neither will the reader, and we'll all be on the edge of our seats, hurriedly turning the pages. Win-win.

  2. Those who don't plot AND manage to pull it off just amaze me. This is way beyond what I imagine I can manage successfully.
    [Of course, many “pansters” produce messy nothings. That- I’m sure I can manage… ;=) ]

    But even as a plotter I get plenty of "surprises." Ah, the joy.

  3. I haven't heard the term panster before, but I guess that's what I am too! I also know how I'm going to start my book, the nature of the major crisis, and the ending, but the rest comes as I write.