Are you a plotter or a panster?

Today I am going to give you some tasks to get you started on the road to writing, but first I wanted to lightly discuss what plotters and pansters were.

I didn’t understand the panster terminology, but checking it out on the net produced some the following authors – and a ton more that are reportedly pansters:

  • Diana Gabaldon, author of Outlander
  • Matthew Hughes, author of What the Wind Brings
  • George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones
  • Isaac Asimov, author of I, Robot (and many more)
  • Rex Stout, author of the Nero Wolfe Series
  • Sally J. Ling, author of Frayed Ends and Unraveled

Pansters apparently don’t plan their stories. However, I suppose I fall between both stools. In Secrets, Shame, and a Shoebox, and the same for The Twenty-One-Year Contract I wrote a timeline and researched what happened in those years. Though I didn’t have a plot I knew what I wanted to write and needed to ensure that I didn’t let myself, or the readers down by getting the timeline wrong.

By the way just like a dyslexic person might struggle with words, I struggle with numbers. Big time. Is that dyscalculia?

There’s nothing wrong with plotting or planning. If it works for you then let your stream of consciousness walk you through the story. For me it’s my imaginary friends that come to visit and, at times, shout at me and shoulder barge others out of the way to tell me their story.

Of course, I listen. Sometimes I go right off piste, and a whole new storyline emerges. For me this is the way I work. I love hearing what they have to say. I love writing their thoughts and I become immersed in their characters behaviours and reasoning.

However, others enjoy being clear in their beginning middle and end. And that’s brilliant!

Just a word to the wise:  Knowing the ending is as vital as the arc of the story.

Some of my very good writing friends struggle with endings and this stops them from finishing. Sounds obvious right? Luckily (touch wood) I usually have an ending in sight before I start writing.


I bang on a lot about characters. There is a simple reason for this. Your characters move the plot forward. They are integral to your story.

If you missed the character development post, then may I suggest you take a look and give yourself a chance to read. It provides an exercise and develops your knowledge about your character but there is more as you will soon find out.

Knowing your characters inside out is useful. By doing the tasks you will build your characters and this will help you with your story-line. I promise. You most likely won’t use all the information, but you will sound authentic when you write about them simply because you know how they tick. Don’t be surprised if they start taking you on a different journey though. So be kind to yourself and allow it to happen.

Be fluid with your writing. If you don’t like what you’ve written or what they are saying: CUT AND PASTE INTO A DIFFERENT DOCUMENT. You never know, you might want to use it later.



Writers are observers of life and how people react to one another. If you sit on a bus, go to the launderette, on the tube or you are in a shop, in a coffee shop each situation presents the differing behaviours of people. Think about it for a moment.

Here is an exercise for you to start developing your work.

Write down your answers the moment you have come to a decision.

What gender have you decided upon?  

Are they Flamboyant. Outlandish. Shy. Easy going. Mean. Kind. Generous.

How tall are they?

What colour skin? Spotty or clear skinned do they need a shave or have shavers rash?

What colour hair? What type of hair? Is it cut regularly or not? Is it coloured?

What colour eyes? Glasses. Contact lenses.

Big or small hands. Nails manicured or nibbled.

You see, straight away, all the little details make up a person and, in some cases, starts developing their traits and personalities. If you think about some of the best characters you’ve read I bet you anything you have identified with them and come to recognise what they are going to do before they do it.

Now moving on:

What nationality are they?

Who do they live with?

Where do they live?

What is their job or are they at school or are they being looked after as a little one?

Are they rich or poor or middle class? We shouldn’t pigeon hole people or class but ask yourself is your character inner city poor, or inner city rich. Do they live in the countryside or they urbanites?


Look at how Mums and Dads control their children (or not) :}

How does the shop assistant react to you as a shopper or an older person. Are they happy in their work or bored? Look at the facial expressions. Listen to the way they speak to you. It’s the same with anyone, anywhere. Listen, observe, note it down or just remember it.

Do you remember your teenage years? Maybe you are still a teenager.

All that angst! It’s so hard to deal with. Tantrums. Parents not understanding. Being bullied. Or bullying others.

It’s all out there and fascinating.

Do you know an Alpha male or Alpha female? Think about their behaviour and what makes them stand out. Are they Matriarchs or Patriarchs?

How about the shy person. I hope you are getting my drift. If you read Winnie the Pooh, you will spot every character shining through. Same with Little Women. Clever writers make you identify with characters. That is why they are so important.

The story:

Writing what you love and what you feel comfortable and confident with is a good start.

What do you read? Reading is essential. Let me give you an example. If you feel that you want to write in a particular genre, work out what you liked about it, then ask yourself what worked for you and didn’t.

Ask yourself – did you like the language they used or was it too fluffy? Or maybe it was too academic or too graphic. Seriously this is important to recognise what you want to see in your own finished piece of work.

Titles right now are not important. However, I sometime start out with a title – but it changes a hundred times. I think for me the title was my reminder as to what the story was going to be about. Don’t be precious about titles get on with the writing.

Here’s your next task, so start writing again:

What year are you going to write in?

Contemporary? Tudor. Victorian etc. Sci-fi. Time travel. Thriller. Horror.

I’m being simplistic here, but it makes it easier for me to describe:

Boy meets girl and HEA Happy Ever After? All of the above can be done in those genres. But then it might be the complete opposite. Its your story.

Do you need to do research?

Find the books or information you need and read. Get immersed with your chosen genre.

Do you have an idea what you want to write about?

Write it down now. Bullet point or just go with the flow. Image result for Cartoon Images of Bullets. Size: 250 x 106. Source:

I’ve worn myself out right now. I’ve got to get on with my own story.

I will give you some more tasks in another post. Good luck and happy writing. Oh, and by the way – join a creative writing course or find a critique group. Its really important you are supported.

If you find you would like to share the following or my blog with your friends, then great and thank you so much if you buy my book/s.



Where silence turns to courage, survival and happiness

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