How to Sharpen your Plotting Skills-Calling Pantsers!

Are You a Plotter or a Pantser? Wish you could be both? Here's how!

Michelle Massie

5/30/20233 min read

Are you a Pantser or a plotter? First, what is a Pantser, anyway?

Pantsers are those writers who do not outline, or at least, don’t spend a great deal of time outlining. Plotters are writers who live and breathe by their outline, setting their story up before actually writing it. An admirable quality and any writer who possesses it has my respect!

Usually, us Pantsers are right-brained thinkers, and Plotters are left-brained. Curious about where you fall? Check this out:

Left-brained (usually Plotters)

  • Verbal

  • Analytical

  • Logical

  • Systematic, directed

  • Cautious

  • Detailed

Right-brained (usually Pantsers)

  • Big picture

  • Creative

  • Random

  • Casual

  • Visual

  • Imaginative

  • Emotional

So, you can see that Plotters are Plotters for a reason! Being logical and well-organized would help any outline out there.

I am an admitted Pantser. And there are days I wish I weren’t. The days that I realize I wrote a 2,000-word chapter, and it just doesn’t sit right with me. That direction just did not work. So I cut and paste it into my Deleted Scene folder in Scrivener--which is growing nicely--and start that chapter or scene over. Sound familiar?

But then, there are days I am so glad I don’t live by my outline. Ideas pop up in my head as I write, and my story takes twists I hadn’t even dreamed about! Still not quite sure where you fall? Let me give you a few tips if you are new to the game or just plain wondering!

1. Start an outline. I always start an outline. I never finish it, but I try. There are times when I’m able to use a Three-Act Outline (check out my outline freebies here!) but it always turns out much different than it started. But still beneficial!

2. Take it a little bit at a time. In my current novel, (just the first draft—I don’t have a title to give you yet) I would take it one act at a time. Helped me stay organized, and helped me keep up with the plot. I actually split my story up into Five Parts this last time, using the Hero's Journey Outline for help (check out the template here) and it helped a lot! I would plot out an act, then write it, then plot the next act, write, etc.

3. Try a chapter outline. I did this in addition to my Five Part Outline. It helped tremendously in that I could plan if my book was even long enough. I was aiming for at least 70,ooo words in my first draft, and had a general idea about how many chapters I would need.

So, these are the new tips I have for any Pantser that wishes they were better with outlines! These were all tips I learned from my latest novel (literally just finished the first draft today!!!!) and they were tips I wish I had during other drafts of novels!

To sum up, I’m definitely right-brained but am training my brain to be a bit of a lefty. And you can too! Or vice versa! Imagine if all Plotters had a bit of Pantsing in their work, and all Pantsers sat down and focused on some Outlines! Tremendous things could happen! Give it a thought!

Happy writing!


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