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Friday revisions: Pantsers vs Plotters

I’ve spoken before about revising as you write, and I leaned on the side of blindly writing a first draft, and then working through several drafts of revisions to the final version.

But after the A-Z challenge where I wrote 24 different flash pieces in 26 days, I’ve realized that the process of writing the first draft could include a bit of actual “thinking” on craft.

I’ve mostly written (literary) short stories so far, and gone on to publish some of them in various print and online collections/journals. Being able to write a completed flash piece in one day gave me the confidence to attempt completed literary short stories in under a week.

I’ve done two so far and am working on a third, one of which has been accepted for publication. (The selection was for Stories for Sendai, a worthy cause. If you don’t know about it, go take a look at the blog tour organized by the publishers!)

So, I’ve concluded, I must be doing something right.

I still go into a trance as I write a short story, but only after I’ve done a lot of research and have a bare-bones feel of where the story is headed…through what Robert Olen Butler calls Dreamstorming in his book From Where you Dream.

Am I becoming a plotty writer, from being a pantser?

Does the way a plotter and a pantser revise reveal something of what sort of writer they are?

I know I’m making a fundamental change in my writing process, and I’m a little freaked out.

I wonder if I should be.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Talei says:

    Congrats on your stories being published, thats awesome. I'm looking forward to reading Stories for Sendai, I met up with JC last weekend and will be doing a promo on my blog too.

    Happy plotting and pantsering? I say, do what works for you and just keep on writing! You have a great talent! 😉

  • Damyanti says:

    Cinette, i think I do Koontz's method for my flash fiction, but i don't think I have craft enought to be able to do it for anything longer!. Thanks for your comment and welcome to my blog!

    Madeline, I do a lot of getting into the character's head too, and it goes hand in hand with dreamstorming…after I have dreamed up what happens, however vaguely, I let the characters talk their way into the story.

    Donna, you're an amazing writer, and I'm going to listen to you on this :0). I like that I'm still a pantser!

  • Donna Hole says:

    I still consider myself a pantster, even though I do quite a bit of research prior to or during the beginning stages of writing a story – short or novel. There are things that need "plotted" in order to get the story started, depending on context or setting or genre.

    Like; for one of my latest shiny ideas, I needed a good Irish name with lots history and some idea of how it had changed over the years. That plotting. Once I got the name and geneology down though, the rest is pantsing 🙂

    Letting the characters tell me the twists and turns of the plot (of course I know what the plot is before . .) itself. Character plots are the most fun to pants.

    You're still a pantster Damyanti, even when you go back and revise/edit as the story unfolds. In my view, anyway, cuz thats how I roll too.

    Hi-five girlfriend, for being flexible with your writing style and knowing when to improvise, and when to plot!


  • I'm starting to turn into a plotter, too. I think you should embrace the change. 🙂 Dreamstorming sounds interesting. I guess I've done a lot of dreamstorming lately, only I've written while doing so. I close my eyes and try to get into my characters head and write whatever comes. It is a little different than dreamstorming, but it's super fun. Congrats on getting published!

  • Cinette says:

    I'm still feeling out what methods work best for me. I have a hard time with following an outline, trying to force the characters into it. Then I read about Dean Koontz's method; he'll rewrite the first page up to 32 times, or until it's right, then he'll move on to page two. Though I imagine he has a basic outline in his head, he simply revises his story as he writes it.

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