Should a Pantser Try to be a Plotter? One Pantser’s Shocking True Story By Laurel Osterkamp

Should a Pantser Try to be a Plotter? One Pantser’s Shocking True Story By Laurel OsterkampLet’s welcome back Laurel Osterkamp as she shares with us “Should a Pantser Try to be a Plotter? One Pantser’s Shocking True Story.” Enjoy!


They never say it out loud, but the implication is there. 

If you are a pantser, you should try becoming a plotter. 

Perhaps it’s true that plotting a novel first, rather than writing by the seat of your pants, is the better way. But I have tried, and failed at plotting too much, too soon.

I am a Natural Pantser  

It’s got nothing to do with how creative I am– or am not. 

Really, it comes down to impatience. 

Forget about ironing out plot holes or doing research or making sure that my story follows a reasonable trajectory; I just want to get going. 

I’ve written some of my best work that way, and I think that’s because for me, the main joy of writing is making discoveries as I go. 

However, I can also write myself into a corner if I don’t have a good plan, and if the magical discoveries don’t happen, then what? 

I become overwhelmed and paralyzed by both too many and not enough options. 

Trying to Become a Better Outliner 

Last year, I convinced myself that if I followed the perfect outline, then my book would become an immediate bestseller and a huge success. 

I constructed something that’s a combination of Jessica Brody’s outline in Save the Cat Writes a Novel and a template I found online, which is specific for romance novels. 

You see, last November I decided I’d try my hand at romantic suspense, and I was determined to meticulously plan and write my novel during NanoWriMo. 

Here’s a small sample of the outline I came up:

Act –1 Opening Image, Theme Stated, Setup, Catalyst, Debate

Introduce the protagonist who feels incomplete. Introduce her world. Show how she is unsuccessful in relationships. Foreshadow conflict that creates problems for coming relationship. Establish non-romantic goal. Present the crime.

  • Begins by saying they need to destroy the pool– opening image
  • Gives the history of the pool, how Juliet was always afraid of it, but Jane loved the water. Relationship to siblings. Juliet is her beautiful, spoiled sister who hates the water.
  • Explains how her cousins moved into the hotel to support their grandmother after grandfather disappeared. Jane tries to solve crimes.
  • Foreshadowing: That pool was where I saw her, floating lifelessly facedown, sure that part of me had just died. That pool was where I’d fallen in love with him, and it was where I’d lost him– state theme

The outline goes on and on and on, laying out each plot twist and romantic entanglement. 

My Result 

I did finish the novel, though not in November (but I reached 50,000 words by the end of the month). 

My goal was always to rework and revise, and I have begun that process.

But then, I stopped.

It just felt tedious. 

And, I don’t think the connection between my romantic leads is strong enough to support an entire novel, and that’s a fundamental problem that needs fixing.

But I don’t know how to fix it because I never allowed myself the opportunity to have fun and explore the different ways my characters could grow, find themselves, and find each other. 

I think that’s the reason that there is no spark. There’s no spark between them, and there’s no spark for me when I’m writing.

I’m not saying I won’t go back to the story at some point. 

I still plan to. 

But for now, I’m working on something else, an idea I’m really excited about, and which I won’t plan to death before I’ve started writing. But, I will do some planning. 

It’s always good to have a vision, but not a tattoo.

I don’t claim to have the magic formula for how to find the perfect plotter/pantser balance, but here’s my suggestion: 

Pay attention to what drives you to write in the first place, and feed that desire. I think we all have a process that comes naturally to us, and it’s an individual, organic thing that can certainly be built and developed and improved, but which should not be abandoned. 

However or whatever you like to write, stay true to yourself. 


About the Author 

Laurel Osterkamp

Laurel Osterkamp is from Minneapolis, where she teaches and writes like it’s going out of style. Her short fiction has been featured in Tangled Locks Literary Journal, Bright Flash Literary Journal, and Metawoker Lit, among other places. Her latest novel Favorite Daughters was recently released by Black Rose Writing. (Click here to see the novel on Amazon.)


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