These are terms that refer to the way a writer approaches her craft. Are you someone who prefers to outline every detail, from the beginning to the end? Are you excited about the prospect of utilizing storyboards, graphs, charts, and grids to calculate your story timelines, characters’ birthdates, eye and hair colors? Is it important for you to know what kind of music a character would buy or their favorite television show? Writing without an outline would feel like going on a trip, with no particular destination in mind, which isn't something you would ever do. You plan where you are going, down to where you'll be dining and every sight you'll be seeing. If this sounds like you, most likely, you are a Plotter.
However, if you prefer your story to happen more organically and to be surprised by your characters’ actions and various plot twists, you are a Pantser. Otherwise known as a writer who likes to ‘fly by the seat of their pants.’ You probably feel that detailed plotting would stifle your creativity when you prefer to go with the flow. Planning out every detail would rob you of the fun of discovering minute by minute how your story will evolve. You enjoy the process of discovering what will happen as you are writing, not before.
Perhaps your technique is more like mine and you utilize a combination of the two methods described above. In that case, you are a Plantser. Most of my planning is done in my head. Generally, I know something about the beginning and the end, but how the characters arrive at their destinations is sometimes a bit of a mystery. I may or may not develop a concrete story outline, but I definitely don’t fill in all of the details in advance. I don’t plan exactly how my characters will react to events, even though I have a strong idea of who they are before sitting down at my desk.
Embracing your strategy can save you time, energy and frustration. Follow the path which works best for you and helps you to get those words on the page.