Plotting or Pantsing: what is best for me

At last the  PROPER link to this final week’s competition  theme!

Plotting or pantsing: what is best for me?

Well, when I started I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew I had an opening chapter with a bit of drama and a good “hook” line, and an ending with a sort of a cliffhanger. So in my naïveté I reckoned I had all the elements of a good novel. My employment background and leisure pursuits both gave me plenty material to work with, and I thought that the theme (dodgy surgeons) would capture the zeitgeist perfectly. So off I went.

Now, I see from the date stamp on my earliest Word documents, that was 10 years ago, and here I am still struggling. I’ve now got a good cast of interesting characters, immersive scenes and lots of chapters, but still no finished novel. The “plotting” approach has left me with many tricky timeline issues – how long after the inquest should the report be issued? When exactly does Bob’s wife first suspect he’s been unfaithful? What can I write in to separate the two visits to the ITU where the house officer is lying critically ill? It’s got so complicated that I’ve actually resorted to a ribbon of A4 sheets  almost 2m long, printed with days of the week, attached to my bookcase, with little sticky arrows that I move around endlessly, trying to make it all fit together sensibly. Aaaargh!

So wouldn’t it all have been much easier (and quicker) if I’d just started at the beginning, “pantsing” along merrily from scene to scene, crisis to crisis, until I reached the end? Too late to change now, and I certainly haven’t given up, and I’m determined that the Big Book will see the light of day before yet another decade has passed. But I’m not sure I can answer the question “what’s best for me”, until I’ve got this one out of the way. I’m not sure my somewhat OCD temperament will allow me to stray from my tight plotting, but perhaps it would be a good discipline for me next time (if there is a next time) to try the alternative. After all, that’s pretty much what I have done for each of the last 12 weeks of Thanet Creative Writers competition entries!

Anyway, that’s enough of this distraction. Now let me see, does the rugby match fit better in week three or week four? And how long before Bob’s wife returns home? Hmm…


  1. I now know what “pantsing” means and realise the difficulties an author may have in having multiple thoughts . However, I can only say “carry on and enjoy” uttering the odd Aaaargh! when you have to…………. I have enjoyed your writings so far.

    1. Thanks to one of my small band of faithful commenters!

  2. My feeling is that the way you have been writing your book and short stories, pretty much sum you up! You do a lot of mind dancing, and when you settle down, I hope it will all fall into the right places.

    1. How well you know me! 💛

    2. Thank you: I love the ‘mind dancing’!!!

  3. You demonstrate so well, how perhaps scrambled the shall we say preperation can look .However in a way
    you also underline to me that its all part of it and is needed. The carpenter has to collect together a variety of tools and a variety of timber before he can start knowing roughly what the creation target is and how to construct it.
    To me this is what you described so well.

  4. Having written a murder mystery, and a heist, and then a weird pulp adventure (in one novel), my method was to rough out a plot, write an incoherent manuscript and fix the timeline in the second draft. Having picked the murderer, I then either delete or tweak all the clues that exonerate them.

    Then fix the errors in the third draft. In fact “fix it in the next draft” is pretty much my motto for anything too hard. Though I’m rapidly running out of drafts before being done…

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