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Welcome to This Awful/Awesome Life! My name is Frances Joyce. I am the publisher and editor of this magazine. We'll be exploring different topics each month to inform, entertain and inspire you. Meet new authors, sharpen your brain and pick up a few tips on life, love, entertaining and business. Enjoy and please share!

Plotter or a Panster? How do you Write? by Fran Joyce


Much has been written about the writing habits of famous and not so famous writers. Some writers are plotters who plan out their novel before they write it. These writers tend to be organized and almost always make their deadlines. Are they a tad formulaic? Some are, but others create inspired prose by staying on task and staying focused on their plot and characters.

Certain writers prefer to let ideas flow freely. They are known as pansters – a term created from the saying, ‘flying by the seat of your pants” meaning they plan out little to none of their work. Stephen King is a proud and unapologetic panster, while J.K. Rowling prefers to work from a basic plot outline.

Another group of writers attempts to straddle the two camps by planning out some aspects of their work and leaving other details to chance.

If you are a writer, how do you approach your work? Does it really matter?

If you have never finished a writing project or if you habitually miss deadlines, your writing habits could be part of the problem. It may also be a factor if your writing is too predictable and your readers are losing interest in the story.

If what you are doing works as well for you as King’s and Rowling’s approaches do for them, don’t change and skip ahead to the next article.

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There is no magic formula for writing. What worked for Kerouac or Christie might not work for you, but it never hurts to study the methods of other writers, especially great ones.

Take a look at these quotes from famous writers. See if you can guess who is a plotter or a panster. Maybe it will help you identify and refine your approach to writing.

“Write in recollection and amazement for yourself.” Jack Kerouac

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“I have fallen in love with the imagination. And if you fall in love with the imagination, you understand that it is a free spirit. It will go anywhere, and it can do anything.”  Alice Walker

“Well, you give me too much credit for foresight and planning. I haven't got a clue what the hell I'm doing.” Robert B. Parker

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” Ursula K. Le Guin

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao Tzu

“If I waited for perfection... I would never write a word.” Margaret Atwood

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“Irresponsibility is part of the pleasure of all art; it is the part the schools cannot recognize.” James Joyce

“I sat down with a yellow legal pad and began writing 'A Time to Kill.' Had no idea what I was doing. It became, over a period of several years, a secret little hobby nobody knew about except my wife, because she was reading chapter by chapter.” John Grisham

“The best time to plan a book is while you are doing the dishes.” Agatha Christie

If you enjoyed these quotes, read more at:

Stephen King photo: By Pinguino Kolb - "Pinguino's" flickr account, CC BY 2.0,

J.K.Rowling Photo: By Daniel Ogren, CC BY 2.0,

Kerouac Photo: By Tom Palumbo from New York, NY, USA (Jack Kerouac) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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