Plotters, Pantsers, Strategists, and Adventurers: Finding What Works

by Shannon Fox

Dictionary:

Plotter

(n) 1. Otherwise known as a planner, this writer is characterized by their tendency to create extensive outlines for their writings. Major plot plots, minor plot points, minuscule plot points, all go into their map. All of this work is done before pencil is ever set to paper.

Pantser

(n) 1. “Fly by the seat of your pants”. This writer is characterized by their boldness, immediately setting pencil to paper and writing until the ideas stop flowing. Ideally, this doesn’t happen until the first draft is finished.

Strategist

(n) 1. Similar to the Plotter, the Strategist spends a long time with their story, their character, and their world, hammering it out in their head, unwriting and rewriting. After a sufficient length of time has passed, they begin to write.

Adventurer

(n) 1. Similar to the Pantser, the Adventurer sets pencil to paper with a character in mind and goes on adventures with them, letting the character take the lead.

Plotters and Pantsers are well-known to the writing community. However, if you’re like me, you might not feel that you’re well described by either one. And the point of categories is to fall into one, no? A friend told me about some advice she’d gotten from a writing professor at our school. This professor, rather than discussing the tried-and-true plotters and pantsers, had her own categories: strategists and adventurers. I definitely identify more with this second set. I’m very much a strategist. If I’m writing a novel, I’ve probably been sharing brainspace with these characters, their story, and their world for quite some time. I let things simmer, maybe writing a note or two, but mostly leaving it in my head. Eventually that simmer will grow into a roiling boil and I’ll have to start writing down what’s in my head.

While I feel that I am a Strategist, I definitely share characteristics of other categories. I’m a bit of a Pantser and as Adventurer as well. Once those ideas are ready to go, I just start writing, not really sure where I’m going with my story. Even if I have a plan laid out for me, I’ll often diverge from it to follow a thread where it will. But not to say we must all fit in one or any of the categories. Writing, while often a communal experience, is also individualistic.

Which are you? Did I miss any categories?

8 Responses to “Plotters, Pantsers, Strategists, and Adventurers: Finding What Works”

  1. Out of the First two, I’m definitely more of a Panster… Most of what I Write comes right out of my head, and I just push on through until the end… However, I also have a bit of Plotter in me… Generally I’ll have some Characters and The Plot in my head, and just start Writing… However, especially the longer the Story is, at some point I find it’s good to start Outlining… I especially did this with the whole last 1/3 of My Fantasy Novel I just Finished… I had always pictured aspects of the ending, but being that the Finally to a degree would take the last 1/3 of the book, I decided to Map it out a bit… And it paid, made Writing easy… But I, like you, Definitely Diverge.

    But Largely, out of the 4 You mention, I am The Adventurer… My Characters definitely lead the way once I’ve Created them, and given them Life… So I’d say, mostly I’m an Adventurer/Panster, with several Dashes of Plotter, Lol

    Great Article Shannn

    DJ-

  2. Being in the Panster category requires a “forge ahead no matter what” state of mind” and is very rewarding. I think quite a few of us have the ability to keep finding an undiscovered vein in which to write and develop on the fly. It can be the type or work that has one forgetting about time and the grumbling stomach. I’m mostly a Panster.

  3. Haha yeah I’d definitely say you’re a strategist. It shows in your writing, too, since everything in your stories is so well tied together. I’m mostly an adventurer, although I tend to start with a situation or image, then build the characters out of that moment. Sometimes it makes for thin characters, but I’m getting better at letting them be real people.

  4. I always start out as a panster – usually with a beginning scene and an ending in mind, and then quickly move to strategist when I figure out what my characters are up to. I don’t believe in trying to make everything work in an outline, but I also don’t think you can expect the characters to get to where you want them to go on their own. It’s like children, you don’t get to plan who they are and will become, but you have to guide them along the way. Otherwise… well, you know what happens.

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