A few months ago, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a pantser and a plotter. I heard the terms tossed around infrequently on author blogs and podcasts, always tuning them out as self-pub industry terms. Then a couple weeks ago I listened to an author interview on Rocking Self-Publishing’s podcast and the author admitted he was an unabashed pantser. After putting on my critical thinking hat, I deciphered that a pantser was essentially an author who “writes by the seat of his pants” (I know, I’m out of the loop).
Naturally, I deduced that the plotter was the opposite of the pantser–an author who creates outlines and organizes their plot before penning it. I don’t see much written about plotters in the self-publishing circles I follow. Pantsers abound though and so does the mantra of “write more books quicker”. Pumping out 1,000-2,000 words a day is brutal, but for a pantser it’s the price of admission. Many indie authors have embraced a prolific publishing schedule that involves releasing 3-4 books a year and many others have decried the approach because it leads to low quality books. I wholeheartedly disagree that this strategy to writing books results in reduced quality and so does Stephen King apparently.
I think what bothers me more is that plotters are somewhat forgotten in self-publishing. Although I’ve approached my writing process from both angles, I identify more with plotters. Creating a nice detailed outline of my story gives me warm fuzzies. It’s a nice roadmap to where I want things to go. Plus Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid seriously overhauled my plotter tendencies.
Even though it’s never been explicitly stated, I feel like being a plotter is considered bad in self-publishing. You’re supposed to write books lightning fast and get them out there for your readers to devour! There’s no time for outlines…MUST…PUBLISH…NOW! It really brings you down as a writer if your pace is slower in that context. Heck, I want to write faster! Thousands of words a day like this guy would be awesome.
But alas, it’s not how I roll.
I’m a slow-and-steady-to-the-finish-line writer. Is that wrong? I don’t think so. But it does mean a longer tail on building a brand and platform. And that’s okay. Seriously, if you’re a slow plotter like me do not despair. Because what really matters in this plotter or pantser debate is finishing your book. It took me nine years to finish my first book. A combination of factors contributed to that: laziness, life issues, lack of knowledge about writing, etc.
But my second book? It only took me a year to write and publish. So I’m getting better. Will I ever be on a three month publishing schedule? I doubt it, but as authors, we do what’s right for us. Trying to pump out massive word counts every day doesn’t sound like fun to me, but if it floats your boat, that’s awesome. Go with what works best for your writing career and forget the naysayers.