Monday, December 12, 2011


I wrote a guest blog a few months back about the benefits of using a system I call Road Mapping to write a novel. Road Mapping is creating a detailed outline of a novel prior to writing it. This is how I've always written my books. I am a  planner. I love to make lists. I love to know exactly where I'm going before I begin my journey.

Some people did not agree with my point of view on this. Writers tend to fall into one of two categories: Planners (like me) and Pantsers. Pantsers are writers who just start writing and see where the story leads them. Of course, they may have some good ideas to get them started, but they don't follow an outline. They follow their hearts. Feelings run strong in both camps, sometimes too strong.

After reading a couple of comments about my post defending the Pantser way of doing things, I decided that to be fair, I really needed to try writing a novel without a safety net -- just once. So I did. This summer I set a goal. I would write every day for 90 days. All I knew ahead of time was the book's basic premise (I had no idea what the plot would be) and that the finished product would be a 50,000 word young adult paranormal novel.

So I set off without a map, without an outline, without any idea where this would end up. I wrote every day for about an hour, and by September I had a finished manuscript. So, I can honestly say that I've written novels using both the Pantsing and the Planning methods. Here are my thoughts on them both.

Pantsing gave me results faster than Planning has. My other novels all took around a year to write, including the planning stages. My pantsed novel took three months.  The amount of time I'm spending in revision is about the same.  This is not what I expected, because I thought my pantsed novel would be full of holes and need to have significant patch ups. It hasn't needed any more repair work than my planned novels.

I found that while my planned novels were easier to actually sit down an write because I knew exactly what I wanted to write by the time I turned on my computer, the actual process of figuring out the plot was the same. I still mulled it over in my brain, still dreamed about it, still got excited when I figured things out. The only difference was that in one case I jotted down my thoughts first, and in the other I went straight to writing the text.

Well, of my plotted novels, one is being published in May. Another won 1st place in a contest and has garnered some great attention in another. My pantsed novel has already drawn attention from both a publisher and an agent. So, I have to say pantsing did not diminish the quality of the finished product.

I am left on the fence on this one. I can no longer say one method is better than the other. I've done them both and had success with both. I think in the future I may not rely so heavily on outlining as I once did. But I do like to know where I'm going in a story, even it's just in my head. But I may very well try my hand at winging it again one of these days, just for the fun of it.


  1. Okay, obviously I need to get more "blog" savvy since I have commented and lost the comment twice--but I REALLY want to respond so....
    With my first novel, "One Night With a Rock Star," I was totally a pantser although I had a general overview--we'll call it an aerial view--of the story, major plot points and where it ended up.
    In writing "The Fall," I ended up writing a series of summary paragraphs, kinda like scenes from a storyboard, until after 40 days or so I had a complete summary of the novel. Then, over the next six months or so, I fleshed out that first draft. There was still room to "breathe" creatively with the storyboard "planner" approach since characters and emotions still surprised me kinda like... life! (ya know, "Life happens when you made other plans."John Lennon)
    Therefore, Laurisa, I'm not going to help much because I like both approaches and plan on doing a sort of mishmash of planner/pantser since both have advantages I want to... take advantage of ;)
    And I hate being put in a box!


    www dot chanakeefer dot com

  2. Wow, Laurisa! This is so cool! I think each writer needs to do what works best for them. As for me, I'm a limited plotter. I have a general idea where I'm going, and I prepare index cards, but I leave myself lots and lots of room to play. I guess it's the best of both worlds! Good luck to you on that new manuscript :D

  3. Kudos on the success you're having with both types of books! But I am a plotter, for sure. Pantsing scares me. I fear the blank page when I don't have an outline to refer to -but I am not afraid to deviate from the plan when I feel drawn from it. So I think there's a way to have a "pantsing" experience when you're plotting. :)

  4. Thanks, everyone. Yep. I'm in the middle of "plotting" the rest of my fantasy series. I have to because I've got three more books to write and I want to make sure they don't contradict each other.

  5. I think some stories lend themselves better to one camp or another. I like to say I pants within the plan, sort of like taking the side roads instead of the Interstate.

  6. Interesting experiment, Laurisa, and very interesting results!

    I have no idea what to call myself, truly, as I love to plan (I'm nuts with character charts and monopolize conversations with writer friends until I'm SURE of my plot) but once I start writing, it's all up to the characters. Once I hear their voices, the story is not my own anymore. So I guess I'm both...? LOL

  7. Hi Laura. I think I'm more like you in that I do a lot of planning, but let my characters take the reins during the actual writing process. I like to know where I'm going to end up, but sometimes the process of getting there ends up being different than what I anticipated. Thanks for you comment!