I have recently been exposed to the terms plotter and pantser via a Red Sage author questionnaire. Basically a plotter plots everything out in advance and a pantser makes it up as they go along. Let me make clear: I HATE pantsers with the fire of a thousand suns. That is my gut reaction, but let me give you real world examples why being a pantser is horrible for your readers.

First up, let's take an example most people know (but know that I had to vomit about twelve times while writing this): The Twilight series. I'll be honest: if you really, really love it, I don't think I want you reading my books or blog. Please, move along. If you're unsure why it gets so much hate but don't love it, this post is for you.

Let's push aside the poor writing style, the flat characters, the banality and creepiness of the whole thing and move to the rules of the universe. why are rules of a universe so important?

Maybe your story exists in the real universe, maybe it exists in one where vampires sparkle and werewolves never heard of conservation of mass. If your story happens in the real world, you have to follow real world rules like gravity, thermodynamics, universal laws of gravitation. Tedious, yes, but common sense. What goes up must come down. What must move requires energy. So forth, and so on.

But if your universe is made-up in any way, shape, or form, you have to fill in the gaps. Sure, in Twilight gravity still exists, thermodynamics are reasonably the same, but the laws that govern the vampires seem to...change at will. Take Alice Cullen, who can see the future, except she can never foresee a MacGuffin that will be important to Bella as long as not seeing it is the Macguffin. If seeing is the MacGuffin, then Alice sees it.. And her powers are never fully explained. What triggers her visions? How far in advance are they? In the second book, they are awfully prescient, in other books awfully vague and less prescient.

Or take Edward's mind reading. He can read all human minds, but not vampire or werewolf. So why in the second book does Jacob (a werewolf) warn Edward off reading his mind? And why can't Edward read Bella's? Why is it a vampire cannot impregnate a human, but Edward impregnates Bella?

Ahh, there's the rub. Fan theories abounded that Edward couldn't read Bella's mind because she was to turn into a werewolf, and that could also explain the pregnancy. Stephanie Meyer came out later and essentially said "No, he couldn't read her mind because Bella is so beautiful."

How did we get such unevenness? Why was the amount of sunlight needed to make the fairies vampires sparkle never defined? Why did the abilities of specific characters and whole species change all the time? Because Ms. Meyer is a pantser. She herself has said that sitting down and writing the first book she didn't know she was a writer (what, did she blackout and never realize her fingers were on a keyboard writing a document that was fiction?), yet when writing the last book she was writing in equal parts for the fan base, for the movies, and for her publisher.

No, no, no, no! The series authors that do it that way turn out schlock. Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series for example. If you're still reading that, hoping for redemption...hold your breath, pass out, and enjoy better dreams than any future novels.

Series written by plotters are far better with more acclaim, and even better commercial success. Take George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. Or Kim Harrison's Rachel Morgan books. These books are much better according to pro reviewers and the fans.

Now, there are two type of plotters: Arc and Long-Haul. And there are two ways to do each. Take George R.R. Martin. He plots long-hauls but loosely. He knows what the main character will be doing in his seven books. He's outlined all seven. But as he completes a book he fleshes out the outline for the next book and so on, and so on. 

Kelley Amrstrong plotted out all the books of her Otherworld series, long-haul tightly. She knew exactly what the driving plot of each book would be. Since every one to two books we change to a different protagonist it was a little easier, but it made the overriding arc work into each character's book nicely.

Now for the arc plotters you get into series like Sherrilyn Kenyon's "we call it Dark-Hunter but that is a laughable name" series.  In that she plots out two to three books at a time for each main arc. But again there are two types here: arc plotters with vision and blind arc plotters. She is a blind arc plotter meaning she has no overriding arc, no end in sight, so each arc is fleshed out but really doesn't much further the series. It can lead into the next arc, but due to this style we'll get two to four good books followed by two to three that are shit. For example we followed up Styxx, which is (in my opinion) the best urban fantasy ever written, with Son of No One starting a new arc and it is complete shit.

An arc plotter with vision is someone like Lori Handleland who writes her Night Creatures novels in arcs across three to four books but always keeps in mind the overriding arc which is eventually the J├Ąger-Suchers must win the war on werewolves and monsters (or at least a new era must come in that stabilizes things).

If you haven't read any of these series they are worth checking out. It's worth noting that outside of science-fiction, fantasy, and urban fantasy the rules are slightly different. With mystery, romance, westerns, and general fiction you have only two types: plotters and patterners. That last is my own term, but it makes sense. Be aware what all those genres have in common: the books reality is our own, the laws that govern the worlds are the same.

A plotter in the wide world of reality-based fiction tends to plot out a small series of novels as one work. Sometimes it is released as one work, or broken into three or so, but overall it is plotted as one piece and often written as one. Patterners write each book seperately, sometimes carrying over elements between books, but planning them separate in a template. this is how mysteries are often written, such as Lillian Jackson Braun's The Cat Who... series. 

Mysteries and westerns are the only two genres where you can be a pantser, as long as you are a patterner. You can have the same character in all stories, like Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op series, but each book is stand alone, plotted separately. However, you can be a plotter and decide how many books total the series will have and loosely outline them before writing, fleshing out the outlines as you go.

Please feel free to look up each author I mention and how each series is rated by critics and readers alike. The books that stand the test of time are always by plotters (long-haul and arc with vision), and patterners. This is good to know for readers and writers alike. Readers will enjoy these stories more throughout their lives and writers will find more lasting success with these styles.

Avoid the pantsers. Maybe you kinda like the Twilight series as a teenager, but try reading it again in twenty years. It won't cut it. Dashiell Hammet's work from the 20's stands up enough that now in 2014 Johnny Depp is staring in a film adaptation of The Thin Man that will come out in the future.

For readers and writers alike, look for the plotters and patterners of the world to read, and follow their suit if writing. These are the books that will be loved long after the writer shuffles off the mortal coil. And that should be what we all want.