Plantster: Combination of Plotter and Pantser

This is how I imagine a planster: a potted plant wearing a disguise. You think you’ve planted a seed that is growing as you tend it. But in reality it’s probably a poky cactus that will never flower.

So what is a plantster really? Well…

Plantser = Plotter + Pantser

Plotter: I think of a mystery writer. Yes, on page one you know whodunnit but to put all the clues in the right place before you get to the last page and solve it? That takes careful planning and pacing to not give too much all at once. Balance it across the chapters because you know how long it’s going to be. Oh, we all want the meticulous detail spelled out in character profiles, drawn maps and timelines.

Pantser: “Fly by the seat of your pants”, eh? I think of a fantasy writer, Dungeons and Dragons style. Oh I’ve got a character and some good vague ideas and let’s see what sticks! What actually happens is controlled by the characters, not the writer. Don’t like something? Woops, killed them off. Anything goes! Oh, we all want our characters to take over and write themselves out of what we throw at them!

So, a Plantser is the best of both worlds then, right? Maybe?

Oh my gosh.

This post was going to be about how I was a plantser. But right here, right now, I realize I’m not.

Oh my gosh!

I’m a pantser.

Oh god.


No no no. I was a pantser. But I want to be a plantser. So, now this post is going to be a two part thing about how a pantser becomes a plantser.

Here is my confession. Mars and Mayhem I totally made it up as I went. I had ideas, written down ideas, but it didn’t turn out as I originally planned. A few things that tipped me off when I look back on my notes and come to admit this truth:

  • I did the character sheets after the first draft. Whoops.
  • I wrote my characters into problems that I didn’t know how they would get out of it. The small ones were easy enough. I remember vividly the moment I got the epiphany for how Michelle (spoiler!) worked herself out of her flat tire. Such a rush!
  • But there were bigger problems. Like what is someone going to do after losing their job? And more importantly, could the Earth be saved? Not by that person. Uh oh, now what.
  • The story was going to be longer than nine days and have more alien invasion aftermath of rebuilding society (spoiler: instead will there be any at all?).
  • As world building developed, it wasn’t all doom and gloom like apocalyptic novels. It’s easy to have aliens/zombies/plague/terrorists come to destroy the world you built, but then you become attached to it. You start asking what pieces of infrastructure are worth keeping?
  • I ended up doing some analysis by page count and found literal gaps. Chapters ranged in page count dramatically and it was very unbalanced between characters. I had to fill it in.

I used to think a pantser would repeat themselves, get distracted by the things they like, or go too far down an idea they end up cutting in the end. Well, I know for a fact that I’m an under-writer, but no, I’m also 100% pantser.

And vowing to change that!

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