Plotting vs. Pantsing: What’s your investment? – Each commenter gets $1000 from Bill Gates

I’ve struggled for years now with plotting (that was 8 months ago. I’m still here). I’d rather do seat of the pants and avoid all the plotting. I think I’m like the lazy man from Proverbs, the one who says, and I paraphrase, “I can’t go anywhere. There might be a lion in the streets that will devour me.”

If I plot, I’ll be eaten by a lion. I like it. It’s as good an excuse as any.

So what do you do? I mean, not in a rhetorical way. What do you do to plot your book? What’s your routine, if any? Or are you with me, pointing to the lion outside and whispering, “I caaaaan’t. The lion will eat me!”

These jerks live right down my block and wait for me to start plotting books, then bust in and make a meal out of me. I’m okay as long as I pants everything.

If You Typed 10,000 Words a Day, You’d finish a Book Every week. Just sayin.

I’m re-reading Little Miss 10 K a Day, which is actually titled 2,000 to 10,000: How to write faster, write better, and write more of what you love (Rachel Aaron, 2011). Sure, I sneer at her. “People,” I say, “can’t write 10 k a day. Not in house, not with a mouse, not with a fox, not in a box, they can’t do it, Sam-I-Am.”  Her secret, which isn’t a secret at all, ***SPOILER ALERT*** is to find the best time of day to write, the best location, oh, and did I mention she plots everything extensively? There’s a great deal more wisdom in the book, so I’ll leave it to you guys to pick up a copy and read it. I’ll wait.


“I don’t want to buy your 1 dollar ebooks, even if it revolutionizes my word count. Humbug!”

Okay, those of you who are sipping your Starbucks while saying “I can’t afford a 1 dollar ebook that might change EVERYTHING about how I write,” go to the back of the blog. GO TO THE BACK OF THE BLOG. Go on. You know who you are.  The rest of you, give it a read. Go on.

Did you finish? Okay, you guys with the lattes, here’s a link to the free information, if you must: Look! Rachel speaks pearls of wisdom. Are you wise, or are you swine? Don’t be swine. I’m posting this to help you, you know.

Dig those rail coveralls… Now, what sort of person would put THAT paper on a nice red wall like that? And why is there a placard? “Here you see the one armed paper hanger in action, with nary a bucket of glue in sight.” I think this is making fun of  one-armed paper-hangers, too much.

See, I always think, “If I’m pumping out 5000 words an hour, I’ll be busier than a one-armed paper hanger!” Then I think, “What’s a paper hanger?”  I know, contextually, it’s probably a guy who hangs wallpaper. You know, put on the glue with one hand, put on the paper with the other. But if you only have one hand…Boom. That’s busy.

Back to pantsing.

I tried to find some blog posts or books that tell you how to pants. I did. Crickets. Sorry guys, this isn’t defensible. HOWEVER! I did find a great post by Larry Correia.  Trigger warning: Sometimes he uses strong language -and- he’s conservative, so if you don’t like having your views challenged, don’t read the following quote from

“When Stephen King isn’t pontificating about political topics he’s fucking clueless about like gun control or government healthcare or anything vaguely related to the military, he’s one of the most successful authors ever. If I recall correctly he’s a pantser. He’s also one of the best damned wordsmiths who has ever lived. Nobody else strings evocative language together like he does, but personally I think his endings tend to fall flat. This is all a personal opinion so I’m sure I’m going to get jumped on by his fans, but when I read a King book it is like he gives us 700 pages of brilliance and then… eh… I’m bored. Guess I better wrap this thing up… Uh… Everybody dies. Aliens did it. The end.” Original Post here.

I share that quote with you because Mr. King is held up as the epitome of all authors. He even wrote a book about writing books.  Oh! That’s my point. Stev-o says in his book how to pants. So do exactly what he does, and you too can be churning out bestsellers.

Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!

Pshaw, Matt, you say. That trick never works. If it did, there’d be thousands of Stephen King clones all moving to Maine, saying “Boooooks… boooooooooks.” Stay away from the clowns up there, kids. That’s a piece of advice you can take to the bank.

What are your word counts, oh you pantsers? Please reply with your words per hour, with explanation if necessary of factors that affect your numbers such as a strangely too affectionate bond with your small ratter dog, or children, or you contracted a loathsome physical disease which causes people to cry out when they see you, “Unclean!”

And you plotters: How much time do you spend plotting? How good is your WPH? Please post that here, as well, with explanations about dogs, children, loathsome disease, etc. Let’s compare and contrast.


Seat of Your Pants: Plot of Your Pants; Plodding Along

There’s a dichotomy in the writer’s world, one that divides brother against brother, sister against mother.  This great gulf, this chasm that cannot be bridged, it’s the methodology of how you plan your book.

The Seat of the Pants people (Pantsers, in the vernacular) prefer to eschew a road map. “My destination? I’ll see where that is when I get there,” they say dreamily. It’s a wonder any of them ever finish a book. I mean, who can do that?

Me, I’m a plotter. A hard core plotter. It’s a military operation! Give me graphs, maps, and flow charts.  Let’s see that character arc! Yessir! I want complete load-outs and weapons check by 0530! You characters, line up and fill out your character bios. You there! Don’t you leave your unconscious goal blank! I want some plot twists laid down and they better be ambushes. I don’t want the reader to see that claymore until it goes off! When the reader gets to the end, he’d best be holding in his entrails with a spoon!!!!


Confession time.

I’m not so hot in the planning department. While I don’t have much truck with Hobbes’ view on mankind as some sort of pleasure-seeking paramecium, you’d think I’d still seek the pleasures and delights that having a good plot would give you. I start with good intentions, and somewhere about chapter 6, I say, “Who am I kidding? This is a different story than the one in the plot outline.”

I know, some of you are saying, “that’s okay, Matt! You’re one of us. Pantsers are great! You’ll do fine. You can reach the end.” That’s not the problem, nor the solution. I still need an outline. If, for nothing else, to get a great character arc, and then figure out enough plot twists to do something fun that isn’t always predictable and trite.

Those are some pretty vague goals, aren’t they? If I was a character, I’d accuse my author of being lazy and not raising the stakes enough. “Give him some conflict. This whole `I can’t plot a book’ is pretty boring. Can you put in an explosion?”

Perhaps it’s time to turn to the internet random plot generator:

A disfigured wizard is forced to carry out witchcraft.

I guess that would resonate with the BDSM and handicapped community. “Cast the spell, you worm, or I’ll take your wheelchair away!” Fifty shades of handicapped magic.

An untidy cat burglar accidentally picks up an ancient scroll.

Hmmm. Untidy? That’s it? I see a character arc where he becomes super-neat by the end of the book, and is a successful cat burglar after that. How do you accidentally pick up an ancient scroll? Maybe he could become disfigured and be forced to carry out witchcraft.

A fireman has 24 hours to transport – back through time – orphans.

Now we’re talking! Time travel. Why 24 hours? It’s time travel. Take your time, you can just select when you want to arrive with the handy time-o-matic time machine!

When one is thrown out, a car load of lost hoodlums go on a sea voyage.

Oooh, I see some real potential there. “Hey Bubba.” “Yeah, Moxie?” “Why are we on this sailboat, anyways?” “Because we’re going to get the treasure first!” “Oh. Are we going to hit someone to get it?”

A disorganised train driver has a day to prove their theory.

Maybe the untidy cat burgler can help him. And the fireman with his time machine and orphans. Bah!