Finishing your First Draft - Day Three

Doug Landsborough
April 20, 2023

Welcome back!

In the world of writing, people like to classify themselves as plotters or pantsers. These two terms refer to your approach to writing: whether you plot out your story first or write “by the seat of your pants.”

In reality, almost all writers fall somewhere in between these two ends of the spectrum. But before we muddy the waters too much, let’s look at these two terms more.

Plotters like to create every detail about the story before they ever write the first word. They dive deep into character outlines and interviews, map out all the different subplots that creep around in their story, are obsessed with knowing exactly where the story is going, and their notes are as long as some novels.

Plotter Pros: Minimal revisions after your first draft, detailed notes to fall back on when you get stuck, fewer plot holes in your first or final draft, a ridiculous understanding of your characters and world.

Plotter Cons: Takes longer to even start your first draft and you can struggle to deviate from your outline, resulting in less organic growth.

Pantsers hate the idea of outlining. For a pantser, the first draft is basically the outline. You write it using “exploratory writing,” which means that the story evolves as you bring the plot and characters to life. Maybe you know how the story ends, maybe you don’t. But you’ll come up with something along the way.

Pantser Pros: Your first draft gets done a lot more quickly, your story and characters grow more organically, and you don’t feel limited by an outline.

Pantser Cons: Your story needs heavier revisions after the first draft, plot holes are more common, and brute forcing your way through lulls in your writing momentum is more difficult without notes to fall back on.

In either case, it usually takes the same amount of time to get to your final version of your book; plotters take more time before writing the first draft and pantsers take more time afterwards.

Like I mentioned, though, most writers fall somewhere in between these two extremes, a type of writing that makes up for the shortcomings of both pantsers and plotters.. We call these writers plantsers.

Plantsers don’t limit themselves to one strict method of writing or another. They take what works for them and ignore the rest, no matter what plotter or pantser purists say.

Some plantsers make a high-level outline and sketch out their main characters. Some will write a summary for each chapter but pants the scenes in those chapters. Others don’t mind a little exploration in their writing for some subplots but create strong outlines for their main storyline.

Personally, I love creating a detailed outline but am happy to deviate from it if the story feels right.

For newer writers, it will take a couple books for you to figure out exactly where you are on the plotter-pantser spectrum. You might learn something that works best for you–or something that you absolutely hate.

I’d suggest that newer writers start closer to the plotter side, though. Writing is a craft, one that you can only perfect if you know things like structure, character arcs, and much more. Once you have a strong grasp of your craft, you can be more confident that you won’t have plot holes or other errors in your story.

Ultimately, though, it’s up to you! Where do you fall on the plotter-pantser spectrum? Does one side speak to you more? Keep those answers in mind as we continue through this bootcamp!

Talk to you tomorrow,

Doug from Dabble

Doug Landsborough

Doug Landsborough can’t get enough of writing. Whether freelancing as an editor, blog writer, or ghostwriter, Doug is a big fan of the power of words. In his spare time, he writes about monsters, angels, and demons under the name D. William Landsborough. When not obsessing about sympathetic villains and wondrous magic, Doug enjoys board games, horror movies, and spending time with his wife, Sarah.