Episode 1: Planner or Pantser?

Here are the show notes from our very first episode which aired live July 14, 2018 at 9 a.m. EDT on MakeThePointRadio.com and 100.7 The Point FM local to Columbia, S.C.

Support Write On SC


Dr. Kasie Whitener, Clemson Road Creative, fiction writer, 

Preston Taylor Stone, fiction writer, poet

Theme for the day: Are you a pantser or a planner?


  • Who we are and why we’re here
  • The topic for the week: Pantser or Planner?
  • Choice or compromise?
  • Book discussion — currently reading and its analysis through the lens of the topic
  • Craft book discussion — Stephen King’s On Writing
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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Segment 1

What is pantsing and what is planning?

Almond Press has an article on this. They say:

Start a plan with:

  • An Outline — general, overview, high-level character arc; action plot and emotional plot (motivations); character
  • Chapters — Specific by number or name, include which characters are in there, give the action plot items and then the emotional plot items
  • Scenes — Specific by location, characters, time in relation to the time of the book and the time of day/week/month
  • Details — do you need some foreshadowing details here?

ShortSpark.com suggests these ways to begin pantsing:

  • Write with a few key scenes in mind — this can be the inspirational scene and become the inciting incident, then the questions that go with it have to be answered.
  • Start with character — the voice of the person who demands his or her story be told; it can feel like being possessed

Try not to get distracted by the details when pantsing — historical accuracies, clichés, time, weather, character voice, setting or costume

Dan Johnson’s blog:

“Stories written this way are driven from subconscious instinct rather than conscious decision-making.”

Why is there a debate between these two styles?

Most writers will only be comfortable with one of these styles. So figuring out which one can be a step in a writer’s maturity. And learning to work in either can be another step in a writer’s maturity.

For pansters, there’s still a romantic ideal about process, the exhilaration of following a voice or what have you into the depths of their experience, thoughts, or beliefs.

For planners, there’s relief in having a plan of where to go.

Famous Pantsers: Lee Child, Stephen King

Famous Planners/Plotters: J.K. Rowling, James Patterson

Segment 2

Is there an element of both in every complete process? Yes.

The difference is in the chronology. Pantsers begin with the creative flow and have to backtrack to plan. Planners begin with a direction and let the creative flow take them off course as needed.

This Writer Unboxed author (Lisa Cron, LA story doctor) argues that both planning and pantsing miss a key point:

“your protagonist’s inner issue, her inner agenda, and the story-driven evolution of her internal belief system, is where the real story lives.”

The debate: How do we find the character’s inner issue, inner agenda, and the story-driven evolution? Can it appear magically through a pantsing frenzy like NaNoWriMo? Or must we deliver it in a well-crafted plan using specific and finite details to unfurl it?

Planning and Pantsing are DRAFT techniques.

No one pants or plans and entire book. There’s a balance between frenzy and focus.

And there’s this big thing called “revision” that happens between drafting and publishing.

Unless you believe Faulkner’s claim of writing As I Lay Dying in a single, unedited draft.

Which techniques from each method can be implemented and for what purposes?

Pantsing can help lead to the relief of problems arising during the creative process (dialogue leading nowhere, boring scenes, or scenes that talk about the action without showing the action).

Plotting helps to set direction and create cohesion during the revision process.

Segment 3

Book Shares: What are you currently reading?

Preston: What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell

— the sentence construction Greenwell uses: was that a natural flow? The exposition just delivered itself in creation? Or was it intentional in the 1) planning or 2) revision of the work?

Kasie: The Mapmaker’s Daughter by Laurel Corona

— the insert of the 60-year-old-woman’s experience (giving away that she survived the life threatening drama of the childhood part of the story) was that a 1) pantser having two voices she was following? Or 2) a planned balance offering the proscenium structure to frame the slowly developing plot in the childhood part?

Segment 4

Craft book of the month: Stephen King’s On Writing

Because he’s a famous pantser 🙂

Kasie: My favorite part of On Writing was … his “Writing is seduction.” and “Words have weight.” which are both succinct ways of clarifying his primary theses of making a good writer.

Preston: My favorite part of On Writing was … his discussion on adverbs (find a better verb)

Next episode: July 21, 2018

Exposition! (All that below-the-iceburg stuff)

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