I recently filled out a Q&A for an author signing event this July and one of the questions was: Are you a panster or a plotter? I literally had to look up what the definition of panster was. I had no idea! And you might not either, but I'm about to help you figure it out.
A panster is a writer who wings it, flies by the seat of their pants, has no actual plan, just to write whatever they want. A plotter is the opposite: a writer who needs a clear plan, outlines and synopses, one who writes from point A to point B.
Here's some pros/cons of being a panster:
-You have NO idea where your story is going or how it starts. You might have the beginning all written out but have no idea how it's going to end. Or you could have written the perfect ending but have no idea what got you to that point.
-It's easy to get stuck in your writing trying to figure out how to make things fit, or where to go from here.
-You have a higher chance of giving up on what you're working on to write something completely different as a way to escape the writer's block.
-If you are submitting your story to an agent/publisher, a majority of them ask for a synopsis or outline. You don't have one, and writing one just to submit your work will drive you mad.
-You aren't stuck with what you've written in your outline.
-If you get to a certain plot point and decide you don't like where it's taken you, you can change it, without adjusting an entire outline to make it work.
-You have total freedom in your writing.
-You take your storyline where your characters lead you.
Here's some pros/cons of being a plotter:
-Your entire story is based on your specific outline. If you want to change anything, you have to adjust the entire outline to make it work.
-You limit yourself by sticking to what you decided before you started writing. Your characters are limited to the amount of detail you give them when creating your outline.
-You know exactly where your story is going. You don't get stuck with writer's block, you simply look at your outline and know what you need to write next.
-Your story can flow better since you know what happens from start to finish, before you start writing it.
-If you're submitting your story to an agent/publisher, you already have an outline/synopsis ready, which is what most require for submissions.
Every author is different. Some, like me, are pansters. Others, plotters. Some are something in between, or something completely different, or a mix of both, or one for a certain story and the other for a different story.
But the great thing is, IT DOESN'T MATTER what type of writer you are. The fact that you are writing is ALL that matters.
What's it matter if you start at the beginning and write to the end, step by step? What's it matter if you write the end, then go back to the beginning, then maybe finish the middle if you're feeling it? What's it matter if you write a detailed outline, only to write in depth in random spots, piecing it together as you go? It doesn't matter. As long as you finish what you start, you are a successful writer.
Everyone's brain works in different ways. Some work better with a rigid structure, others with no discernable structure. Some like to blare music while they create, others like absolute quiet with no distraction. They all have something in common. They are ALL writers. Yes we all have to learn structure, outlines, and the like in our typical school English classes, but it doesn't mean we have to write like that. (Except for those annoying assignments where you have to SHOW that you DID work exactly like that.) If you're a natural plotter, these assignments can help you hone your skills at planning, making it easier to get your story finished. But if you're a panster, these types of assignments are a creative hell. Once you're free from the assignments of school, you can write however works best for you. Let your creative juices flow. If that means you need to spend hours working on a detailed and precise outline, than outline away! If that means you let your inner hippie out and feel the flow of the universe through your pencil/keyboard, than have at it flower child!
The important thing is that you are writing. That you are creating something only your mind can come up with. No one else can make exactly what you can. No one else has those ideas, and stories, and characters in their head. Only you. So write on pansters and plotters, and in-betweeners, and don't let anyone, ever, tell you how you should be writing. You're the author, after all.