Pantsers and Plotters: Tuesday, April 14th

The whole distinction between “pantsers” and “plotters” is insane to me. Can it really be as simple as slotting every writer that ever lived into one category or the other? Of course it can’t be.

I don’t believe in Pantsers anways; they are mythical creatures – like lottery winners and narwhals and rock-and-roll guitarists.

Maybe there are a few superhuman creators out there, a few men and women who are actually capable of writing a novel from the seat of their pants. But I think we should use a more fitting word to describe what these people really are: “experts.”

Stephen King is a popular example of a pantser. His approach (as noted in his memoir On Writing) is to take a couple of characters, put them in the middle of a tricky situation, and let the characters take over from there.

This may be the case. BUT, let’s remember, there was a time when Stephen King couldn’t fit the pieces of a simple story together, no matter how hard he tried. There was a time when Justin Timberlake couldn’t compose a #1 chart-topper. There was a time when Jerry Seinfeld couldn’t write a joke to save his life, much less bring an entire stadium of people to their knees.

The experts have a way of making it look easy.

The difference between a “pantser” and “plotter” is a long scale and we all fall somewhere in the middle. Over the course of our lives we may move from one end to the other and back again.

Maybe I’m just jealous because, unlike Stephen King, I can’t get drunk and suddenly pull a bestseller out of my ass.

But we all need something to aspire to.

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