Can You Structure if You’re a Pantser?

Today, I’m guest posting on The Other Side of the Story, with a post titled “Can You Structure if You’re a Pantser?” Here’s an excerpt:

Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story

Structuring Your Novel (affiliate link)

Writers often equate the idea of structuring with that of outlining or plotting. As such, it doesn’t offer much surface appeal to pantsers (i.e., those who prefer to write “by the seat of their pants” without a preconceived idea of the story’s plot). And yet, we’re told time and again that structure is crucial to a solid and saleable story.

That’s all fine and well if you’re a plotter. But what if you’re not? What if outlines just don’t work for you? What if you lose all interest in a story whenever you try to plan ahead? In short, can you structure if you’re a pantser?


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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Kinza Sheikh says

    I like to mark structural points as I go. Some of them end up getting somewhere else. But I only plot as much as I will write today, and than after writing the day’s work. I will just ask myself and make some notes where my story is structurally. How the character arc is progressing.
    I always have only a vague idea where my story will lead me to. But never an end. I can’t keep outlining after I get some idea of two or three chapters ahead, then I just have to jump in writing and after exhaust that. I will outline some more chapters.

  2. I’ve been a panster in most of life’s pursuits. More than one professor told me I was a coaster, which I took in stride at the time but now is something I regret as I realize The Gospels and other great treasures do not quickly disclose their most profound truths to anyone.

    Lightning Strikes Twice, the novel I’ll begin releasing on Channillo near the end of this month (March 2016) centers around a conflict between an angel and a demon precipitated by a vulnerable man’s forays into the spiritual realm. Foreshadowing as well as creating justification for certain events has required lots of research about technical things like souls, spirits, demons, angels, cosmology, etc. The role of the protagonist’s older brother as a brilliant physicist also plays a pivotal function but has required lots of fact-checking.

    All the research and information has required structure. Your blog posts and tools like the Character Interview have definitely helped me during this process. Yes, pansters can structure. Most of us can do whatever we’re willing to bear and believe we can do. We’ve simply developed preferred methods of learning and doing that are hard habits to break in some cases even after we learn the benefit of flexibility.

    Nonetheless, I advise other writers to seek out your materials. Thanks and best regards!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thanks, Jeff! Great to hear you’ve found the posts useful. All the best with your writing!

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