August 23, 2011

What’s Your Writing Process?

Stick figure drawing a flow chart

Today I’m guest blogging at Melinda Collins’s blog.  I’m talking about the craft of writing, and how I love every bit of it.  Yes, even the hair-ripping-out parts.  *smile*

That love of the craft means I don’t have a favorite part of the process, so I don’t strictly fall on one side or the other in the great plotter vs. pantser divide.  Or the character vs. plot divide.  Or the writing scenes in linear order vs. out-of-order divide.

I wonder if I’m the only one so scattered in my approach.  (Maybe I just don’t like divides.  *smile*)  Do most people mix up different methods?  Or do they stick with what has worked for them before?

We each have to come up with our own approach to writing based on what works for us.  Writing workshops can be great for exposing us to different techniques, but we have to be careful not to think that the instructor’s way is the only way.  Their process might not work for us.

I’ve had to learn that lesson with every story I write because every one has been different.  To learn what my seemingly random approach means for my writing process, visit me at Melinda’s blog.

Do you consider yourself a plotter or a pantser?  Or are you somewhere in between? Do you write your scenes in order, or do you write whatever scene your muse wants to attack?  Have you experimented with different writing approaches?

Photo Credit: Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

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Marc Vun Kannon

I started out as a pantser, but I’m getting more comfortable with plotting little bits here and there.
I still write from front to back, although as I said in my last blog post, I sometimes plot backwards.
I am always experimenting with new techniques. I write different books each time, and each book gets its own technique. The story knows how it wants to be told.

Raelyn Barclay

There is a part of me that would love to have a set way of doing things yet I love the challenge of each story being different. I guess I’m somewhere in between a pantser and plotter, definitely character-driven, and while I prefer to write linear I’m not worried if I don’t. As Marc said, “The story knows how it wants to be told.” I experiment all the time, in fact have yet to write the same way twice 🙂

Great post. Off to check out your guest post 🙂


I’ve said ad nauseam how I used to not commit and fail in my writing projects in the past, and how I’ve since overcome that (I think I keep restating that so I’m remembered?). I think part of the problem back then, along with everything else I’ve figured out, was a lack of planning. I used to NEVER plan my stories. I would just open up Word, page 1, and start writing with whatever idea I had.

And guess what. It never went anywhere. There was no structure! No plan! No character backgrounds to pull from! Sometimes I would get very far…but the characters themselves did not develop, because I didn’t know who they were or what they needed.

Now I understand, and now I plan. I know it’s important to plot things out ahead of time, to know the purpose for everything in the story before writing it. Once that’s all done, though, I can take any method I want in actually writing it out. There’s no real structure or method for that. Great post!

Gene Lempp

I started as a pantser and for years would get to the 30-50% point, feel I was failing, try again, move on to something new, etc. About a year ago I decided to change things and crammed 30-50 craft books into my head (yep, literally, the surgeon was surprised) and added the wondrous power of plotting to my formula. I’m now a hybrid (on one site they called this mix a “pantyliner” but I am so not getting into that one).

Now, I plot the WIP/story and scenes, which provides a framework, detail characters, etc. and then pants the actual scene. This is similar to taking young children to a playground. All the toys are there and the area is defined but they can do as they please within those boundaries and with what is available. I find this keeps me from drifting off topic, makes identifying issues easier (revision & editing)and still allows the characters plenty of freedom.

Off to check out the guest post now 🙂

Jenny Hansen

“Pantyliner!” Ha! Good one, Gene…

Sonia Lal

You know, I was planning on a post on if I am a pantster/plotter this week. LOL I have reluctantly concluded I have always been more of a plotter than I thought.

Suzi McGowen

I’m finding that every book has it’s own process. What worked for one may not work for another.

What does work for me, is that I learn from the problems I had in each process, and so avoid them the next time around 🙂

Marcy Kennedy

I’m definitely a planner. If I try to write without knowing where a book (or even a chapter/scene) is going, I freeze. I also find that, for me, planning is fun. I love writing up an outline, and I work faster when I have one.

My co-writer is a pantser. She’ll write 3-5 drafts of a book before she decides where she wants it to go. That would drive me insane.

Working together has been a good learning experience for both of us.

Ava Jae

You’re not the only one who mixes the approach!

I’ve found that the method I use to write depends on the book I’m working on. Sometimes I plot out entire outlines, sometimes I pants it completely, sometimes I do something in the middle. Every book is different.

The only thing I keep consistent is that I usually write in chronological order. I don’t necessarily outline it order (if I’m outlining) but when I sit down to write, I like a linear plot to follow.

Jenny Hansen

It’s funny, I’ve got a blog in the works on this so I’m going to have to be sure to reference you. 🙂

I do a basic outline of plot and turning points, then I write scenes. Then I put them in order. I finished NOTHING until I gave myself permission to just write scenes.

Joyce Alton

I’m like you, I can be either one. It depends on the story. Some flow better when they’re outlined first, others come in a rush of spontaneous “let’s see where this road takes us” and some are a mix. In a way, being both a pantser and an outliner is kind of freeing.

Sarah Pearson

I wasa pantser until I discovered the connection between that and never getting anything finished. Now I’m a plotter, but more than happy to be led astray if the situation warrants it 🙂

Jeff Darling
Jeff Darling

I think I am a pantser in disguise. I plot out the story, the characters, what the goals are, and have a fair idea how it will fall together. Then it starts to take on character and decide where I didn’t understand. I enlarge, change around, always find out the protag wasn’t after THAT at all. After I don’t think I recognize it any more, I start to rebuild. I think it is closer that it looks at first, or maybe I just write crabby people. They end up telling me what they wanted, and it will dictate the flow.
Pretty messy, I guess, but I am pretty new to structure and I tend to think I should be able to adhere to it better.


I tap into the mind of my writing alter ego, Frau Pantserplotter. Seriously.

Well, not THAT seriously. 🙂 But being a Pantserplotter has advantages! You get to write like crazy for about the first twenty pages, purely enjoying the spontaneous creation of a story setting. Then, you stop yourself before you write yourself into any corners and plot out the next 50 or so pages.

Then, you pantse onward through those pages, and when you’re nearing the end of what you’ve plotted, you stop and plot some more. Repeat this process until your story has an ending and you’ve committed it to paper.

Then, you edit. 🙂


Kerry Meacham

Tried pantsing, and it was a disaster. Going the ploting route now, and I can already see I like it better. But I’m honestly trying to find my process since I’m new to the craft of noveling.

Joanna Aislinn

Thought I was a pantster when I wrote my last four pieces–didn’t realize I really knew the beginning and end of the story before I started writing it down. Now, w/two more wips started–one a suspense and one possibly a historical, I’m realizing I need to plot or I have no idea where either story will wind up.

Off to visit you at Melinda’s blog! 🙂


[…] Are you a plotter, a pantser or a “pantyliner” (mixing the two, stop laughing, okay, laugh)? Jami Gold explores this topic in a guest post on Melinda S. Collins Muse, Rant, Rave: Writing Craft: How Do I Love Thee? and in a separate post: What’s Your Writing Process? […]

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