Can a Plotter or Pantser Change Their Stripes?


I've mentioned before that I'm a pantser by nature and tend to stick to the flying-into-the-mist method. Discovering that was actually rather surprising based on the rest of my life. I tend to be a planner, love a routine, and organizing (though not cleaning) makes me very happy. And don't even get me started on office supplies. A trip to Staples is way too exciting for me.


I'm also a perfectionist. No fast-drafting and fix later for me. No I can't resist editing as a I go.

So it stands to reason that I should be a plotter, right?  Just think of all those colorful post-it notes and cork boards I could buy. But I've tried.  Tried to outline, to plot ahead. I WANT to plot ahead. Not knowing what's coming next is not exhilarating for me, it's stressful. The unknown makes me anxious. What if I can't come up with what comes next? What if none of it makes sense once it's strung together? What if I hit page 200 and realize this story doesn't work at all?

Luckily, so far, those fears have been unwarranted, but it doesn't mean they don't pop up the next time I'm brainstorming a new project (which I'm doing right now.)

I went to a workshop last year that talked about the brain patterns of plotters vs. pantsers, and research has shown that we are different. That plotting can kill a pantser's creativity and ruin their passion for the story. And in contrast, NOT having a plan can freeze up the creativity of a plotter.

I took comfort in that workshop, but now it's got me wondering if you're bound to your own style.  Does this mean I can't learn to be a plotter?  I mean, when I went to Michael Hauge's screenwriting workshop last year, I got all excited about the structure and thought--I want to plan my next story that way!  And then Tiffany Reisz (erotica author and agency sister) sent me links to the Alexandra Sokoloff's index card method, which looks really cool, too.

So, now I'm wondering if I should give it a shot with this next book. If I'm lucky enough to sell this current book (officially on submission with editors this week, btw!) and get published, then I'm going to have to learn how to sell books on proposal BEFORE they are written--which means I have to plot ahead at least somewhat.

So what do you think? Can a pantser/plotter change their stripes and do it the other way? Should they? And what camp do you fall in--do you think you could write with the opposite technique if needed?

**Today's Theme Song**
"Into the Mystic" - Van Morrison
(player in sidebar, take a listen)