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Tips for Plot-Driven Pantsers

Updated: May 11

There's no right or wrong way to write - we all work differently, value different aspects of story, and are aiming for different outcomes. This is why I've identified four writer types and will be teaching you how to play to your strengths, whichever you are.


First, take the quiz to find out if you're character- or plot-driven, and if you're a plotter or pantser!


If you're still here, you're probably a character-driven pantser, but you can find blog posts for the other three types here:


What's a plot-driven pantser?

Pantsers enjoy writing intuitively and 'flying by the seat of their pants', but that doesn't mean they don't use any outlining techniques. As a plot-driven pantser, you're more interested in creating an engaging, consistent plot than letting the characters take control. It's still very important, however, to make sure you include fully-developed characters who make realistic decisions and develop throughout the story.


So, here are three tips for you to write better as a Plot-Driven Pantser!




 

1. Make sure the characters' actions are natural

When you're a plot-driven writer, it can be tempting to make the characters work for the plot, but this doesn't happen in real life. In real life, we resist change, we avoid conflict, and more often than not, we don't choose to do the brave, heroic thing.


This might create a problem when you're pansting a plot-driven story, because you should never write a character that has no agency and is only guided by the plot (unless it's being done on purpose!). This doesn't mean all stories should be character-driven, but it means you still have to take your characters seriously.


If you've written a brave MC who will automatically be up to facing all the challenges you throw at them, that's great. But this often isn't the case, because such characters can be boring and unrelatable. A flawed, resistant character who has strong development is more interesting than a character who starts out 'perfect' and never develops.


Think of ways to push your characters to do what needs to be done, and how that will impact them. In The Hunger Games, for example, Katniss doesn't want to compete in the games - she has to, because she wants to save her sister. If you need your shy MC to get up on a stage and sing karaoke, because it's the only way to solve a murder mystery, what can you do to force the character up there, without it feeling unnatural?



2. Keep a chapter log as you write

Yes, this point is copied from my last pantser blog, but it's just as important for plot-driven pantsers as it is for character-driven pantsers!


When you finish a pantsed story, you can reach the end and not have a very clear idea of everything that happened. This means that when it comes to editing, you aren't sure where to start, because you can't remember all of the external and internal plot.


To aid with this, it helps to keep a chapter log, which you should complete at the end of each chapter as you go. (I'm a character-driven plotter, and even I do this. I think everyone should, but it's most important for pantsers.)


I use an excel spreadsheet with rows for each chapter, and columns for the following: date/time, place, scene (what happens), subplots, main character notes (their thoughts/feelings/internal journey), other characters in the scene, word count, and edits or notes that I should come back to later.


You might choose to keep track of more/less, depending on your style! Don't worry, I'll be putting my chapter log Excel template up on Etsy soon. If I get enough interest, I'll do this faster, so head to my socials and let me know.



3. Decide on a few major plot points

If you're a pantser, you don't want to outline every detail, and that's okay! However, knowing a few key points will help guide your story. Especially when you're plot driven, and want to make sure the story successfully goes from point A to point B, and retains growing tension.


You should already have a clear idea of your main plot, main character, genre, and estimated word count. If you don't start with these, you could be in for a big, messy edit down the line. Next, you should consider some major plot points that will happen along the story's journey.


First, where does the story start? How you will introduce the main character and the problem the book will have them solve? Next, the inciting incident, which throws them into the plot. Add a few conflicts along the way that will help the character develop, and a final climax and resolution to complete the story. Note both the external plot and the main character's internal arc.


You can change these as you go, and each scene can be pantsed, but having some ideas of where your story is going will really help you not get lost along the way!


 

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