Planner, Pantser, Pouncer

At a recent gathering of writing friends, the topic of planner vs pantser came up.

I declared that I used to call myself a pantser (a person who writes by the seat of their pants according to the whims of the day), but I learned that I needed to add in a little more planner (a person who plots out stories in advance) to get things done.

Cover of Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) by Lisa Cron

For more on this, I recommend Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) by Lisa Cron.

One man in the group had never heard these expressions. He asked for clarification. “Did you just say planner vs pouncer? Because that’s what I do. A thought occurs to me and I pounce on it.”

How wonderful! He added a third element to the conversation, one that both planners and pantsers can embrace.

For example, careful planners who are stuck at a story plot point might take a walk for inspiration. While strolling their eyes might fall on something that triggers the solution to their next step. Ah ha! They would cry as they pounce on the idea, hurry home and add into their overall plan.

Freewheeling pantsers might sit with fingers on keys or pen hovering over paper. Open to receiving as they are, a thought—the genesis of an idea—arrives to them from the Amazing Mystical Universal Supply of Ideas and they pounce.

Are you a planner or a pantser? Even if you’re not a writer, have you pounced on any good ideas lately?

Photo by Flickr on

8 thoughts on “Planner, Pantser, Pouncer

  1. Joni

    I’ve never heard of any of those terms, but am probably a planner with a fair degree of discipline, although I am receptive to spontaneous inspiration. The book sounds interesting – I will look for it.

  2. Ally Bean

    I plan my schedule for anything I do, but I’m a pantser about how I do what I plan to do. I am rarely a pouncer on anything but I like the term. Great idea to add a third category.

  3. marianbeaman

    I am definitely a planner: You should see my lists. However, I pounce on new and fresh ideas when I’m relaxing or walking in the preserve. Thanks for sharing your insights, Arlene! 😀

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      I so envy the natural planners. How I wish it were more natural for me. Sitting down to plan still feels a little like a trip to the dentist chair for me – I have to do it, but it’s no fun.

  4. roughwighting

    I love teaching my creative writing students the difference between being a plotster (what you call a planner) or a pantser. I’m a pantser, and for creative writing, I encourage writing by the seat of our pants for our short stories/flash fiction. But for longer pieces and novels, some planning is definitely needed. However, I’m going to pounce on the idea of being a pouncer as well. We writers should all POUNCE on an idea that flows into our writing mind. YES. EXCELLENT terminology. 🙂

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      I think I’ll stick with “planner.” It’s easier to say! One of my favourite things is to sit down with a pen and paper and just write like crazy, not allowing myself to stop for a certain amount of time or a certain number of pages. Some really rich stuff comes out of that. To complete that task we have to allow ourselves to dig deep or to go outside traditional boundaries. Fun! And then, thump, we have to come back down to earth and make sure it fits somewhere. B-O-O-O-R-I-N-G. Ha ha. That’s how it feels to this pantser anyway.


What do you think? Let me know. Comments make me really happy.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.