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How To Pants Like a Plotter

A Guide for Writers

By Hannah KayPublished 5 years ago 3 min read
{cover made in Canva}

If you're a writer, you have probably heard of the "panster" vs. "plotter" debate, but in case you haven't, I'll break it down.

A PANSTER is a writer that [essentially] sits down at the keyboard and writes — the panster plans very, very little.

A PLOTTER is meticulous. They outline their novel, they know their characters, and they are prepared to write that novel.

So, for me, the answer is both, and here is how I do it.


Let's be real. We all have a smattering of Pinterest boards about weddings or food or wedding food. No? Just me, well, anyway — flip the script on Pinterest!

As a visual platform, Pinterest is a smart way to discover new ideas or supplement the ones you already have:

Search Images:

  1. "Character Inspiration" can be a fun rabbit hole to fall down. I actually have a Pinterest board just for character images. When it's time to start a new manuscript, I just open this board and decide which image fits the character I've created in my head! Then, I transfer that image from the "Character Inspiration" board to the "Work-in-Progress" board, and it's official!
  2. Discover a location. Say you want an image of a cozy apartment to base your character's cozy apartment on. Search for that. You need a New York City loft, but you've never been to NYC? Search it.

Find Prompts: Writing prompts are all over Pinterest, and it's as simple as searching for them!

Create boards for your Works-in-Progress and/or your characters, and use them as a springboard for creation!

Note: If you're paranoid like I was for the first three or four years of my Pinterest {career}, you can make these boards Secret!


I know what you're thinking. We're approaching "Plotter" territory, but when I say "outline" I don't mean... outline. In this step, I reformat my Pinterest board to make an outline in the loosest sense.

I do this because I want a projection — how many chapters can this idea make? So, I create an outline.

  • Chapter One: Introduce Main Character
  • Chapter Two: Character Eats Sandwich
  • Chapter Three: "What the Hell are you doing?"
  • Chapter Four: Character Realizes They're in Love, Oh Nice

This is a crude example, but that's sort of how I break it down. The scene may come directly from the outline, or it might be a bit of dialogue that has popped into your head.

BUT while writing the manuscript, I might realize that chapter four is entirely too soon for the character to discover they are in love. So, I swap the outline, pushing everything back and restructuring, because there is always creative space to change your mind mid-outline!


Now, here is where my particular style seems actually crazy.

I use Excel a lot. Bear with me.

By the Numbers: This is the page of my Excel Doc that I use to keep track of my progress.

  • Across the top, I have chapter name, word count, and page count.
  • From there, I add the items up (=B2+B3).
  • Now, I like to average chapter length, so I divide the total (above) by the amount of chapters I have written (=F2/2).
  • Remember that outline? We had four chapters, right? (=F3*4) That's how long your manuscript should be.
  • So, (=F4-F2) is how much you have left.
  • Then, I like to give myself a deadline (I work better with deadlines). For example, here, I want to finish this manuscript in five days (=F5/5).
  • Now, I know how many words I need to write to finish the manuscript in the amount of time I want to finish it in!

So, there is the method to my madness. It's how I pants while plotting, and I hope it helps you too!

My Current Work-in-Progress of a Pinterest Board

Sample Excel Document

how to

About the Creator

Hannah Kay

I'm Hannah Kay, and I write. I'm a Senior English Major at Mississippi State University, and I've published a couple short novels with small, indie publishing companies. I love cats, reruns, and fall!

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