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Plotting vs. Pantsing: Finding Your Writing Process

Plotting vs. Pantsing: Finding Your Writing Process

Every writer has their own process when crafting a story. Some writers meticulously prepare outlines, mapping out each point they want to hit, while others just put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and let the words flow. 

This is the great debate for writers: plotting vs. pantsing. Which is better?

Each process has its merits and its disadvantages. One may work better for you, depending on your personality and creative style.

Let’s explore plotting and pantsing to determine which aligns best with your writing personality.

What is Plotting?

Plotting in writing is the process of plotting out their work before writing. One common way to plot is to create an outline to follow throughout the writing process. Many writers find that plotting ensures that writers will get to the end of their stories if they know where they need to go before starting. 

The Pros of Plotting

A clear idea of where you want to end up provides a solid framework for many writers. Here are some advantages of plotting:

Structured Guidance

Plotters act as architects for their writing. They outline the plot, characters, and story arcs before they begin. This approach provides a roadmap and a clear direction of where the work should end.

Efficient Drafting

Writing is more efficient with a well-defined plan in place. Plotters spend less time backtracking and reworking because they have already decided on key elements. 


A structured plan contributes to consistency in tone and pacing, which could result in a more polished draft.

The Cons of Plotting

Can plotting work against writers? Here are some negatives of the approach:

Constrained Creativity

Some writers find that a rigid outline stifles their creative flow. The predetermined structure could limit their ability to explore unexpected ideas that may enrich the work.


Unfortunately, a fine line exists between a comprehensive outline and excessive planning. Too much time spent on pre-planned details could lead to a lack of spontaneity and flexibility in the process.

Writer’s Block

Ironically, the structure writers aim for when plotting to reduce writer’s block might cause it. If writers encounter challenges while strictly adhering to their outline, they could struggle to deviate from it to find the solution.

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What is Pantsing?

Pantsing is a creative term for people who write “by the seat of their pants.” There’s no outline, no framework before they begin writing–they have an idea, and away they go. Pantsers argue that their approach to writing allows for full creative expression.

The Pros of Pantsing

Let’s dig into the positives of pantsing:

Unbridled Creativity

Pantsers are adventurers, venturing into uncharted territories with their writing. This approach allows spontaneity, inspiration, and storytelling that may not have arisen with strict plotting.

Emotional Intensity

As pantsers discover the story as it unfolds, the emotionality of the work can be more profound. Raw, genuine reactions from the writer can translate to more vivid and relatable storytelling.

Freedom and Exploration

Without the confines of an outline, writers have the freedom to follow their creativity down various paths, leading to unique developments that resonate with readers. 

The Cons of Pantsing

When is pantsing a less-than-ideal option? Let’s explore some downsides:

Inconsistent Structure

One of the main challenges with pantsing is maintaining your structure. The lack of planning could result in plot holes, arc inconsistencies, or pacing issues.

Revision Challenges

While the first draft might be exhilarating, pantsers often face more intensive revision processes. Streamlining the narrative and addressing inconsistencies can lead to extensive rewrites.

Writer’s Block

Pantsers might find themselves stuck in the middle of their work without a clear direction. This can lead to frustration and extended periods of writer's block as they struggle to find their way forward.

Can You Be a Plotter and a Pantser?

In short–yes. 

Michael Woodson of Writers Digest put it best here: “Even the most resolute pantsers can benefit from plotting their direction–from having a North Star. Knowing where you’re going won’t spoil what you discover along the way.”

Creative Writing with Hire a Writer

Ultimately, whether you lean towards plotting or pantsing depends on your writing style, creative process, and the nature of the story you're telling. Plotting offers structure, guidance, and consistency, while pantsing offers unbridled creativity, emotional intensity, and the thrill of discovery. 

Many successful authors use a hybrid approach, combining elements of both methods to balance structure and spontaneity. Regardless of your choice, the key is to find what best suits your writing process and helps you bring your stories to life in the most fulfilling way possible.

Need help bringing your stories to life? Reach out to the Hire a Writer team today.

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