If you have ever seen an author interview, very often you will see a question about whether the author is a plotter or a pantser.
A plotter is fairly self-explanatory. It means that the author plots out the points of the story before writing (some plot every point, some do only major points).
- Author always know where they’re going
- Organized- less time spent figuring it out as they go
- Easier editing (probably)
- Lacks spontaneity
- Author may not feel the need to write as they already know the ending
- Author spends a lot of time prepping and not writing
A pantser is named such because the author flies by the seat of their pants while they write, typically not making use of an outline or using a very vague one.
- Plenty of room for change
- More writing, less planning
- More “fun” for the author who enjoys surprise
- More editing (probably)
- The author may get stuck more often
- Messy, which doesn’t work well if the author is more of a structured person
Most authors fall along this spectrum of rigidity, but what about if you fall somewhere in the middle?
This is where the gardener comes in.
I describe a gardener as someone who begins with a basic plan but allows for a lot of wiggle room. It takes the best of both worlds when it comes to plotting and pantsing. Why call it a gardener? Well, a gardener has an idea of what they want the garden to look like when they start. They know where the plants will go and maybe what types they want. They plant the seeds (plot strings) and tend them until they grow to full-bloom. Along the they way prune or add fertilizer as needed. They may notice that a plant needs to be moved or gotten rid of, and they take that into consideration as they tend the garden. As a gardener, I have a hard time thinking of cons because the style of gardener varies greatly with the writer. It can be a bit messy and will lead to at least some editing later, but it lacks the rigidity of plotting and the “winging it” aspect of pantsing. Here is an outline I wrote while working on The Earl of Brass:
Please ignore the crazy diamonds, I was marking off what I covered at the time. As you can see, the major points are plotted out with arrows from event to event. What you can’t see from the final product is that I actually filled in several major events that I knew I needed, and then I added the smaller events in between. This is the basic idea of a gardener. They know the major points and fill in the smaller ones along the way but not to the point of completely locking the plot. For me, I need flexibility while I write to let my characters breathe and do their thing. They often surprise me, and I haven’t been disappointed yet.
So are you a plotter, pantser, or gardener?
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