Spend any time on social media with your favorite authors these days, and you’ll come across a number of terms the average reader doesn’t understand. Like any field, there’s a bit of lingo involved that can confuse a person on the outside looking in. Always a reader first, I enjoy sharing some of that insider knowledge with other readers. I mean, we read because we love books, right? And not just the story or the characters—we love the literary world, whether we understand it or not.
I had someone ask me the other day what it meant when their favorite author claimed to be a “total pantser.” I can explain, in a nutshell, for those of you who’ve asked the same question.
Many authors consider themselves “plotters,” or someone who plots out their novel before they begin writing. In general, plotters have an outline that falls somewhere on the spectrum from a general outline with a loose structure and character bios, to well-organized, detailed outlines with personality typed character sheets and a fully structured plan from start to finish. I’m in quite a few author groups online, and I’ll tell you, the true plotter is a rare bird.
A bit more common is the “pantser,” or an author who writes “by the seat of their pants.” The most organized that the majority of pantsers get is to work up character bios and a rough synopsis for the beginning and ending, but are completely at the mercy of the process. Typically, an idea for the story comes, and pantsers flesh it out little by little. More often than not, the writing process happens by following a whole lot of rabbit trails.
Occasionally, an author will claim to be a plantser. I’d say this is the most common writing style, but perhaps that’s just my own tendency to walk the line between extremes. The plantser is more organized than a total pantser, but not as rigid and detailed as a complete plotter. Make sense?
So… how does this relate to inspy romance, other than the obvious?
Well, I think it’s safe to say we’re all plantsers in our own ways. Whether you’re a writer, reader, doctor, teacher, stay-home parent, or any other identifier, life never goes as planned. And few people ever fall completely to one side or the other on any issue. Not only that but as Christians, we must allow the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2) to drive the plot of our lives as well as form our character according to His will.
The New Living Translation of Proverbs 16:9 says, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” And 1 Corinthians 10: 31 says, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Then there’s James 4:15, “What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.'”
Finding that sweet spot between plotting out life and flying by the seat of our pants certainly isn’t easy, and there’s nothing wrong with either side. But I wonder. Is your life your own, being plotted and planned and structured, or are you living by your whims and whatever life throws at you? Or have you found that happy medium where your plans surrender to His will, even when circumstances are out of your hands?
I’ll be honest. I’m a pantser all the way. But with the start of a whole new year, I’m finding He is calling me to become a better plantser—and not just in my writing. I’m ready to add more structure and discipline while surrendering my whims and desires to whatever it is He’s asking of me. In everything—what I write, what I read, as a substitute teacher, a mom, a friend, a wife. It feels like I’m standing on the precipice of something new and beautiful. A lot like the feeling I get when an idea for a new story sparks.
I sure can’t wait to see where He takes me! How about you?
**One random commenter will receive a copy of my first novel, What Could Be, which deals with a young woman learning to let go of her carefully plotted life and surrender to His will.**