Plotter vs. Pantser

Which one are you?

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a post about diving into the world of novel writing. I hope you were able to find at least one thing there to help you write your novel. Today, I wanted to talk about plotters vs pantsers! Drop me a comment below and let me know which of these describes you!


According to, “a plotter is someone who meticulously plans and outlines their story before they begin writing. If you’re a painstaking outliner who spends a large amount of time in the prewriting stage charting out plotlines, devising characters, and worldbuilding, you fall into the plotter category.”


According to, “if you’re the type of writer who likes to fly by the seat of your pants and write without a roadmap, chances are you would identify as a “pantser.” A pantser doesn’t spend a lot of time evaluating writing methods or planning out story structure, nor do they follow a paint-by-numbers approach to novel writing.”

So where do I fall?

I went into my first novel thinking I was definitely a pantser. I didn’t want to spend the time making a detailed outline. I wanted to let my story go wherever it wanted to go. I was even worried that following a “formula” would feel like cheating.

That’s not to say I didn’t have ANY type of idea what I was going to write about before I started. Actually, I did make a very loose outline using the 3-act story structure. (You can find a more detailed blog post about the 3-act story structure, along with several others on Reedsy’s website here.) Does that make me a plantser?

However, if you’ll remember from my previous post (“A Novel Idea”), my story took an unexpected turn when a surprise character answered the door. This happened pretty early on in my story, and caused it to go off the rails that I had laid in the 3-story act outline and I never looked back. This was fun, and eventually turned out okay, BUT I believe it was the cause of the cement-thick writer’s block I found myself in around the middle of my story. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t know how my story would end. Some people might be able to work with that. I, however, struggled and it took me NINE months to finish my first draft.

So, I decided for my next novel, I would try plotting. There are numerous plotting devices you can find with a quick web search. How in the world was I supposed to know what would work best for me? I had already (sort of) tried the 3-act story structure, and it wasn’t detailed enough. I spoke with some friends at a women’s writing retreat I attended a few months ago, and Save the Cat Writes a Novel came up several times. I learn best by listening and writing notes, so I searched for an online plotting course I could take.

I was able to find one on called “Write a Bestselling Novel in 15 Steps”. Fifteen steps? That sounds easy enough! And even better — the course was on sale! So I signed up and quickly realized this was the online course for Save the Cat Writes a Novel! The 15 steps are the 15 beats outlined in that book. Even better, the author of the book, Jessica Brody, teaches the course. The course is broken down into short segments, with a description of the beat, examples of the beat using popular movies and books, and a writing exercise. I’m pleased to say I am over halfway through the course and have 75% of my new novel plotted already!

I have felt such a sense of accomplishment with this outline and I’m anxious to see if I stick to it once I start writing my novel. I still think it’s important to trust the creative process and let the story go where it needs to go, but I’m hoping a lot of that will play out in the outline portion and make writing the story a lot easier than last time. My goal this year is to write two middle grade novels!

I’d love to hear your goals and what works for you below!

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