My Writing Journey from Pantser to Plotter

To my surprise, my creativity did not suffer

Annie Cathryn
Moms Don’t Have Time to Write
3 min readJan 20, 2022


Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

That age-old fence that divides writers — pantser and plotter. I recently hopped the fence, not so gracefully, catching my pants on the barbed wire, nearly impaling myself. But once I cleared those spikes, my writing has been better for it.

I envy writers who can open their laptops and let their fingers fly over the keyboard, writing a cohesive story with phenomenal pacing. Their thoughts organized so perfectly in their heads. I wanted to be part of this exclusive club. I wanted to be a pantser with my whole heart. But alas, I had to give up this dream if I wanted to be a published author.

When I began writing a novel, I sat down and wrote with a rough idea in my head. I set a goal of 1,500 words per day and made a commitment to keep that. And off I went to create something I hoped would be magical. More often than not, the inspiration for what was next in the story just came to me from, you know, that space where ideas come from — high in the sky.

However, around 40,000 words, I hit writer’s block. I knew how I wanted my story to end, but I didn’t know how to get there. Eventually, it would come to me. And I could find pleasure in the waiting. But that’s when a thought hit me: There has to be a more productive way. Aha! A rough outline will do the trick.

So, I read books on plotting and took online plotting courses. Then I wrote a bare-bones outline because I worried that plotting everything would stifle my creativity and inspiration. To my delight, that saggy middle became tighter. It was just enough to get interest from agents. What I had been working toward for three years happened. End of story? Nope.

When I got my agent, she loved my voice and writing, but she thought my book could benefit from a more robust outline to reorganize and help with pacing. Now my agent is also an editor and a very good one. I trusted her that I needed to suck it up and outline. I kicked and screamed behind the scenes (don’t tell her that) and I stubbed my toe on that dang fence.

After I hobbled for a bit, to my surprise, my creativity did not suffer. In fact, when I outlined, the ideas still flowed, but now I controlled where they needed to go. There was no dreaded fire waiting for me over the divide.

With the guidance of my talented agent, my first real outline ended up being twenty pages long. When I began to revise and reorganize my book with this outline, I was able to turn around the manuscript in six weeks (faster than my days as a pantser). Dare I say it? Drum roll.

I am now a plotter.

With one outline successfully complete, I set out to write another for my next book. That outline is forty pages and took me five weeks to write. The time spent outlining is well worth it and will save me time in the long run with a better first draft.

I’m sharing my experience with those who are straddling that fence between pantser and plotter. What if you hopped over to the other side to discover what’s waiting for you?

Here are some resources:

Plotting Books

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel

Take Off Your Pants!

Plot & Structure

Outlining Your Novel

Online Courses

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel

Five Foolproof Steps to an Airtight Plot

Annie Cathryn is an author, blogger, marketer, and book influencer. Her debut novel, The Friendship Breakup, a mom-com, will be published by Alcove Press. As the host Soulful Series Video Chats, Annie features award-winning and bestselling authors who have written a memoir, anthology, or nonfiction motivational book. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and daughter.



Annie Cathryn
Moms Don’t Have Time to Write

Author/Marketer/Book influencer/Host of Soulful Series. The Friendship Breakup, a mom-com (Alcove Press, February 7, 2023) Find out more at