Planner, Pantser, or Planster – The Writing Process

M.D. Neu

When it comes to the writing process, there are several different ways authors can go about it.  However, most writers fall into three categories; planner, pantser or planster. If you don’t know what any of that means, let me explain.

A Planner, is an author who plans out their entire story. They have an outline, character sheets, a story bible, notes, reference material, etc. This author takes time to really think through their story. They know every beat, ever act, and know exactly how their story will unfold. These authors know every part of the world they have created. They are like the driver who will plan out every stop along their road trip. They know where each rest stop is, how long before stops, where to stop and eat (and for how long), and where to find the best hotels for the night.

A Pantser, is a writer who gets an idea for a new story, sits down, and begins writing. Each knew sentence and each paragraph is as unknown to the author as it is for the reader. These authors, tell the story as they see it unfold in their mind’s eye. Often times they are as surprised by the characters and where they end up as the reader is. Note: pantser often times after they get the story pulled from their brain and placed on paper the author will go back and do many of the steps that a planner will do only they do it during the editing process. These folks, are the ones who decide to go on a road trip, jump in the car and off they go, letting the roads take them wherever they will.

A Planster, is an author, who, as you might have guessed, by now, is a combination of Planner and Pantser. They will start off with an idea and flesh out some of the details of the story before they begin the writing process. They may stop and work on story details, characters, etc. as they come up. These writers are the drivers who tend of have an idea of where they want to go, but may not follow a map unless they need it.

Each of the three types (and there are other types of writers and other variations) have their benefits and their pitfalls and none is better than the other.

For me, as an author, I’m a bit of all three. My writing process can bounce depending on the story. For my Science Fiction series, I planned out all the details of the story. I know each act not only for each novel, but for the whole series. I have a clear path on where everything is going to end up, and I know the characters and my aliens better then I know some of my close friends. I also have each character act planned out, so something that happened back in Book 1 will/may become important in later novels. There is a reason for everything, even if the reader may not know it at the time.

When it came to writing The CallingA Dragon for Christmas, and The Reunion. I very much was a Pantser. I sat down at my keyboard and the stories rushed from my brain and onto the computer. As I went along I found out where the characters and the stories wanted to go. It wasn’t until I typed ‘The End’ that I learned where they writing gods wanted me to go.  At that point I went back in and fleshed out each of the stories, I edited, modified the plot points, created character bios, etc. It was a lot of fun to create these stories in such a way, of course they all changed greatly between the first drafts and finished drafts and I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome for each story.

When I think about T.A.D-The Angel of Death, for this one, I was a Plantser. I had a vague idea of the story, the characters, and the ending. I created very basic character and story notes and proceeded to type away. As I went along in the story I would do some research, make notes, update character information, etc. So, by the time I typed, ‘The End’ I knew I had created the story I wanted and reached all the plot points that I had set out to reach.

With my new works, the ones with my publisher (The Called, the sequel to The Calling and Conspiracy- A New World Book 3) and the ones I’m still creating I continue to be a mix of all three writing processes. The Calledcontinued to be written more by the seat of my pants (Pantser), while Conspiracy followed my plotted out outline with a few revisions here and there to incorporate additional plot elements and character development points.

Then there are my two current works in progress.

Volaria, is a Plantser story, I have a few notes here and there, but mainly the characters are telling me the story as we go along and as it stands right now (35,000k words in) there are four potential endings. I’m not sure which one it’s going to be yet, so I’ll be excited to get there and learn what happens.

Lost Continent, is more a Planning story. I have an outline, character sheets, background information, plot points, acts for the story, etc. Currently I’m six chapters in (about 8,000 words) with about 17 (maybe 18) chapters left to go. Also, as of right now I have a clear ending for the story.

When it comes to the writing process an author can be a Planner, Pantser or Planster. I think all authors, myself included, can be a combination of the three, it depends on what we are writing and where the writing gods want to take us.

M.D. Neu is an award-winning Gay fiction writer with a love for writing and travel. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley (San Jose, California) and growing up around technology, he’s always been fascinated with what could be. Specifically drawn to sci-fi and paranormal television and novels, M.D. Neu was inspired by the great Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Stephen King, Alice Walker, Alfred Hitchcock, Harvey Fierstein, Anne Rice, and Kim Stanley Robinson. An odd combination, but one that has influenced his writing.

Growing up in an accepting family as a gay man, he always wondered why there were never stories reflecting who he was. Constantly surrounded by characters that only reflected heterosexual society, M.D. Neu decided he wanted to change that. So, he took to writing, wanting to tell good stories that reflected our diverse world.

When M.D. Neu isn’t writing, he works for a nonprofit and travels with his biggest supporter and his harshest critic, Eric, his husband of nineteen plus years.




Leave a Comment