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How Writers Write

So a few people asked me about my last post, in the comments another writer (and friend) mentioned ‘pantsing’ and how many writers walk a line between pantsing and plotting. For the not so writerly out there (or maybe the writers who don’t spend way too much time online discovering these crazy terms) the following is a brief summary of the two main methods of writing.

First, and this is my personal style, there is the planner. We get an idea and we start planning. We world-build, we design costumes, we create characters and their back stories and we work the plot from that little spark of an idea into an entire plot, scene by scene. I’m not positive how everyone else does it, but usually once I have my idea the muse comes in and takes over and it all just flows out – as long as I don’t stop. It’s kind of like I pants the plot, then follow it.

The second method is the ‘pantser’. The pantser has their premise, their idea, their protagonist and antagonist and maybe a few other characters, possibly a scene they can’t wait to get to and they just sit down and start writing. Yup, they do it by the seat of their pants, hence the term. I’m not sure I could pull this off with anything but a short story.

My money's on this guy being a pantser.
My money’s on this guy being a pantser.

To be honest, with both methods you can see a tiny bit of overlap. When I make my initial plot, I am technically pantsing while I come up with the ideas that form the outline, also, while I’m writing my scene outline often reads: “Hayd and Even go hunting, a butengram attacks” so I pants the details. Also if a great idea comes along while I’m typing that sends the book off on a bit of a tangent I tend to follow the tangent to see if it take me somewhere cooler than my original idea – after all, my plot outline is still there and I can go back to it if I don’t like the tangent. On the other side the pantser still has some idea of what is going to happen and who their characters are as they wing their way through their story.

I’ve heard of other methods too, but many of them seem to still fall (technically) under either pantser or plotter, for example the beautiful sounding the snowflake method.

The snowflake method is a mathematical way of coming at a story and planning it. You start off with ‘the sentence’ (for those not in the know this is the sentence that sums up your entire novel in less than fifty words(for an idea of what that looks like check out my ‘Current Projects‘ page and you’ll see a whole cavalcade of them) and start building in a carefully planned method around it. If you want the details, read this page. The snowflake method seems like the hard core planner’s ideal method, but it’s a little too rigid for me.

So, if you aren’t a writer, now you know a little more about writer’s minds. If you are a writer, what methods do you like or use? If it’s pantsing or snowflake I’d love to hear how it works for you or how you go about it because they are fascinating yet foreign ideas to me.

1 Comment


  1. // Reply

    I’m a planner… but I’m not so fastidious that I can’t leave the outline. In fact, especially while writing the first Ermengarde, Zombie Slayer, I tend to stray from my outline as other ideas present themselves, which often improves the novel. Planning ahead keeps me on track, though. I’ve noticed that when I have a loose, chapter-by-chapter outline with word count goals for each chapter, I’m more likely to finish.
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