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Confessions of a Former Pantser


By: Margena Holmes

Can a Pantser Change Into a Plotter?

Like many writers, I often write with no outline, but by the seat of my pants—a “pantser” if you will. Plotting? Meh, who needs it. Planning? Ugh, that’s for wimps. I like to see where my characters want to go within the story, how they get out of any given situation, and what happens next. But sometimes—many times—I’m left trying to figure out just how the hell they got into that mess and how they’re going to get out of it. Help, I’ve written myself into a corner and can’t get out! I’ve had to implement that “What if” questions to get my characters back on track. It works, and I find a way to save my characters from certain doom, but it seems like an awful lot of work for one character. So, what’s a writer—a pantser—to do?

Keeping Things Straight

Lately, I lean more toward plotting my story, filling out every detail of my character, where my story wants to end up, and all the situations where my character(s) may end up. Why the change, you may ask? Well, I’m getting older and I’m finding that keeping everything straight in my head sometimes gets to be confusing. Was his name Rennick or Ronnick? What color was the vehicle? Why does my character love spaghetti here, but loathes it there? Not only that, my plots are becoming more complex as I move through my series, and I have many more ideas for future books. I need timelines for my characters as well as knowing what their home looks like.

Can a Pantser Change Into a Plotter?

It’s been fairly easy to convert into a plotter. For my latest book in my series, I became a “plantser,” a hybrid plotter/pantser. I planned out a few things, but also left some things to chance. Even then, however, I was running into issues. What side did my character get shot on? When did this happen? Who was where when it happened? I’m having to go back a few chapters to find these things out. I’ve started taking notes on my own writing to keep things straight. Some of these things may be trivial, but attentive readers will notice these small discrepancies and call you out on them.

Planning Can Be Flexible

For my next novel I will be planning/plotting every detail to keep things straight, and for my peace of mind. Just because I’ve planned it out doesn’t mean I have to follow it to the letter, though. Want to make the character go out with friends instead of with a date? If it works with your storyline, who’s to say you can’t change it a bit? You can still “fly by the seat of your pants” with minor details and see how your character responds to the change. You can always go back and stick with your original idea and keep those characters under control. They’ll be okay, I promise.

Margena Holmes

Margena Adams Holmes was born in Bellflower, CA sometime in the 1960s. She has always had a love for both reading and writing, writing her first song/poem in 1st grade. Margena is a big supporter of indie authors and will read anything that draws her into the story. She is an observer of life, and many everyday things could (and do!) end up in her writings. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email:

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