Planning vs. Pantsing Endings

When it comes to writing, I’m a little bit of a planner and a bit more of a pantser. I’d call myself a plantser. There are some important things I need to know before I commit to writing a story: the opening, the main problem/stakes, the climax, and the ending. How it all flows together is something I’m willing to discover as I go along. One thing I'm absolutely not willing to leave to discovery or pantsing, though, is always the ending.

Have you ever read a story with a tremendous setup or an incredible idea only for it to fizzle out upon the big climax and ending? I think this is a case of the writer coming up with an amazing concept and then excitedly getting to work on it right away without figuring out how it should end. One of my favorite authors of all time is a terrible ender. He comes up with the most fantastic story ideas, sucking me in time and time again, only to leave me feeling dissatisfied with the ending. I still love him, but sometimes I wish he weren’t such a pantser.

I find myself constantly coming up with really cool ideas. For example: I would love to write a story about a small desert town that becomes enveloped in a dust storm. As time goes by, and the dust doesn’t clear, the people of the town begin to realize that there are dangerous things out in the dust. I have an interesting opening in mind and a great problem and stakes. But how do I end such a story? I don’t know. So that idea is perpetually on the backburner. Some people would be willing to risk writing it without knowing where it will end up, hoping it would all develop over time. And maybe it would. But maybe I’d write two hundred pages only to be stuck with a bad ending or no ending at all. I’m simply not a risk taker at heart. Writing is hard work, and I’d prefer not to waste my time.


For the next story I’m working on, I’m actually going to try my hand at creating a very detailed synopsis before I write it, which is something I’ve never done before. But the authors I know who decided to (or were forced to) make the change from pantser to planner mostly all say they’d never look back. It’s a lot easier to make changes to a synopsis than to a finished manuscript. Revisions to the later completed manuscript tend to be a lot simpler as a result. And, of course, you avoid the risk of ending your book in a dissatisfying way, which, in my opinion, is one of the worst things that can happen to a story. 


  1. HIGHLY recommend the synopsis. I consider my outline / synopsis the first draft.


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