Sunday, November 8, 2009

Plotting vs. pantsing

This month is writing tips and advice so here’s what I’ve got for you…

I thought I would share the piece of advice that helped me finished my first novel – no idea if it’ll be as helpful to you as it was to me :)

There are basically two types of writers, plotters and pantsers, but when I first started writing I didn’t know that. I thought you just picked up your pen and away you went – and for pantsers (as in by-the-seat-of-their-pants), that’s exactly what they do. I started I don’t know how many stories… and never finished them. I would get part way in and everything would fizzle.

Then I went to a website that talked about plotting. I realized I had been trying to write as a pantser – and failing, maybe I was a plotter… Then I realized I didn’t really know how to plot. What information? How much detail? I found an answer on Holly Lisle’s website - an answer that works for me. Yes, I’m a plotter. I’m guessing that different plotters have different methods – but here's mine. If you’ve started books but never been able to finish, maybe this will help – or if this is what you’ve been doing, maybe you should investigate pantsing it :)

How to plot:
1. How long do you want the book to be?
2. How long do you want each scene to be?
3. Who are the primary point of view (POV) characters in the book?

- Lets say you want your book to be 90,000 words (check TWRP guidelines for book lengths),
- and each scene is going to be 1,500 words (you’ll have to work out the best length for your scenes based on your writing, I would say anywhere between 1,000-4,000 on average sounds reasonable). Scenes aren’t chapters (unless it’s a very long scene), they are the pieces that make up each chapter.
- This means you’ll need 60 scenes.
- In a romance there are usually two main POVs, the hero and heroine. If you split the story evenly between them you get 30 scenes each.

90,000 / 1,500 = 60 … 60 / 2 = 30

All you do is think of 60 incidents and come up with a single line summary for each.
(E.g Jane finds a Ouija and attempts to find out who she’ll marry.)

Now, I start writing, one scene at a time – but unlike when I first started writing, I always know where I’m going next. I have my road map for the book. Simple, when you know about it.

Enjoy your Sunday,
Louise Delamore

You can find out more about my book on my website, or catch up with more chatter on my blog.

PS: my thanks go out to Holly Lisle and her wonderful website full advice for authors.


  1. Thanks for the info. Very good advice.

  2. Hi, Louise. Good food (for thought) post. I'm a mixture of the two - jot down a scene here and there as they come to me, but the pantser side of me likes the idea of the characters developing their own story. What I'm meticulous about is the character analyses. They determine the course and conclusion - always a happy ending, of course :)

  3. Hmmm. Sounds intersting. Being a pantser, I'll have to try that type of plotting. Thanks!

  4. Everyone develops their own style as they go, it's knowing that there are options that's so important, and not trying to squeeze your writing into a style to which it's not suited :)