My Split Personality: Plotter & Pantser by C. Morgan Kennedy

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). In honor of the efforts put forth by The Office of Letters and Light Programs – annual sponsors of NaNoWriMo, the topic for this month for the Janes is: How do you approach your first draft?

My Split Personality: Plotter & Pantser

Among writers, at least in romance writing circles, it is very common at conferences to hear someone ask: “Are you a plotter or a pantser?” The techno-weenie, geek girl in me longs for the structure of a well thought out plot, but the artist in me wants the freedom to fly by the seat of her pants.

How do I appease my split personality? When writing my first draft, I do a little bit of both. In a nutshell, my process is to plot the ‘big rock’, turning points of my story. Then like a kid hopping stones to cross a creek, I pants my way from big rock to big rock. Knowing my ultimate destination / climax and the mile markers along the way, helps me to write tighter and keeps me from falling down rabbit holes.

I use Michael Hague’s Six Point Plot Structure to hash out my story acts and turning points. (I created my own Excel spreadsheet based on Mr. Hague’s diagram.)  But note: I do NOT cling to my first draft of turning points until the bitter end. Often my characters reveal a new and more intriguing twist that has a ripple effect through the rest of the story. I also get amazing insights during plot storming sessions with my closest writing buds.

So what are you? Plotter? Panster? Or a split between the two?


About C Morgan Kennedy

Author of futuristic, urban fantasy, contemporary romance, and steampunk. Mecha geek fueled by chocolate and herbal tea. Author marketing maven. Co-founder of

Posted on November 4, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. C. Morgan,

    I like your analogy of leaping from one rock to another. I try to outline enough that the leaps between rocks aren’t so far I’ll fall on my ass, lol!

    Thanks for the suggestion of Michael Hague’s 6 Pt Plot Structure. Can always use new tools to bring light to the process.

    Cathryn Cade


  2. I caught Michael Hauge’s presentation at 2012 RWA Nationals. He’s an awesome speaker!


  3. Totes! And now I want a carpet bag.


  4. I love Michael Hague’s story structure and also use it to merge my plotter and pantser dimensions. I love this sentence: “plot the ‘big rock’, turning points of my story. Then like a kid hopping stones to cross a creek, I pants my way from big rock to big rock” it provides such a great visual. Beautiful!


  5. Since I have no completed an entire book, I bounce back and forth to see if being a panster or plotter works best for me – I’m guess I’m still searching for the answer LOL


  6. I’m a definite pantser, or what one author friend of mine calls it “writing into the mist.” I’ve tried being a plotter. I yearn to be a plotter and know where I’m going. I’d love to be able to summarize the plot, the turning points, and the protagonist’s GMC when I start a book. But it just doesn’t work for me.

    I begin every story with a big idea in search of a character. I think that’s my SF writing background that I learned early on in the 1970’s when I sold a good number of short stories for about a decade. About 50 pages into my novel I’ve figured out who my protagonist is, what she wants, and where she’s going. But I still don’t know how she’ll get there or what will happen in the end because I depend on her making her own journey and me simply recording it. Sure, if it’s a romance I know she’ll get the guy and HEA, but I don’t know what problems they will run into or how they will solve them or what the guy’s issues are.

    The beauty of this approach is that it feels very real to me because my protagonist is making the decisions based on her own personality, needs, and desires. I think it is more emotional because I’m not forcing her to follow MY path. Of course she really does end up with where I would be in the same situation because my subconscious is controlling her. However, my subconscious really is SUB. I don’t know what it’s doing until it’s all done.

    The downside of this approach is that when the first draft is done it takes more editing passes than most plotters I know. Just in real life, there tends to be some disconnected scenes, some decisions that go off on a tangent and can be cut. I also have to go back in and reinforce some themes with tone and mood in descriptions and settings. However, I’m always pleasantly surprised at what was included from my subconscious already. It is that surprise that has finally made me comfortable with my process as a writer.


  7. It’s great to hear how other writers tackle the STORY. From quilts, to (save the) cats, to the three-act structure seems like we all have a favorite. I plot too, though my husband swears I’m a pantster. The best part of the process is letting the characters surprise you as you write.


Thanks for your comment!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: