I’m a sucker for any conversation that begins with the words “there are two types of people.”
Today, with a nod to National Novel Writing Month, I’m thinking about another divide: plotters and pantsers.
They say there are two types of novelists. The first type doesn’t start writing until she has a meticulous, detailed outline. She knows how her story will begin, end, and everything in between. This is the plotter.
The second type begins with an idea. Maybe she has the loose plot in mind, or she sees who her characters are, or who they could be. She’s not sure where her story will go, but she knows there’s one way to find out: to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and start writing. This is the pantser, as in, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants.
It turns out novelists aren’t always so different from the rest of us. Some of us like to plot and plan. We want to know where we’re going before we begin, whether we’re redesigning the company website, redecorating the living room, or pulling out of the driveway for date night. As the saying goes, plotters enjoy spontaneity, as long as it’s carefully planned. But these plans make the spontaneous pantsers feel stifled and constricted. They like to begin, and then see what happens next.
(I used to think I was a plotter. Nope. I definitely lean pantser. I love a good outline—metaphorical or otherwise—but only if I have the freedom to change it as I go.)
Neither style is right nor wrong, though you can probably see how you wouldn’t want an organization—and probably not a family—run by all Plotters, or all Pantsers. The key is knowing which style best describes YOU.
So, which is it for you: plotter, pantser, or somewhere in between?
Tell us all about it in comments.
P.S. I wrote a book about personality! In Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, I walk you through 7 different frameworks, explaining the basics in a way you can actually understand, sharing personal stories about how what I learned made a difference in my life, and showing you how it could make a difference in yours, as well.