Pantser or Planner?

Image: Cover of The Wallaby Detectives and the Tomato Sauce Mystery.  Three wallabies in cloaks and deerstalker hats, with magnifying glasses. Text: A meat pie without tomato sauce is always a crime.

Pantser or Planner?

Blog post by Iris Carden

Theoretically, there are two kinds of author: those who write by the seat of their pants, and those who plan out where the story is going. I’ve always been a pantser.

For most of my books, I’ve just had a vague idea and written whatever came into my head. Muse, for example, began as a much shorter story. I wrote as I thought of it, and published the story. Then, years later, I realised it wasn’t finished. There were things I’d always intended to include, but because I hadn’t planned, I’d left them out completely. I finally finished the story, and republished it under its current name.

For my children’s picture books, Fred Flamingo Wants to Dance, and The Wallaby Detectives and the Tomato Sauce Mystery, I used stories I made up for my kids on camping trips many years ago. Those stories were each based on a single idea, and I let the story work itself around the idea as I told it. For Fred Flamingo, the idea was a very bad pun. For the Wallaby Detectives, it was a crime suitable for a small children: a meat pie without tomato sauce is always a crime. (Sorry to people overseas, I realise Australians may be the only people who understand this.)

Most of my other books basically just happened. Usually they went in the direction I thought they were going to go. An exception is Group Meeting, which didn’t end up where I thought it was going, but in my mind at least, was better than the original idea.

I’m doing something different right now. I’m writing the sequel to Wendy Watchitt, and I have an actual written plan. I know exactly where this story is going, because when the idea came to me, it wasn’t just a simple idea, it came to me as a whole complete story.

After years as a pantser, I’m becoming a planner.


By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.

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