To Pants or To Plan (that is the question)

Badges from nanowrimo.org

Badges from nanowrimo.org

Are you a planner, a pantser, or some kind of combination of the two?

Before researching and beginning to plan my NaNoWriMo novel last year, I never really thought of my own writing process or the steps I could take in preparation to write my novel. I was always one to have some sort of idea in mind of the shape I wanted my stories to take. I allowed my writing, plot, and characters to naturally flow every which way until I had some sort of jumbled mess that took forever to wade through and come to a conclusion with. In short, before last year I was a serious pantser.

But pantsing (flying by the seat of your pants with a story) really works for some people.

Sometimes the natural flow of a story works (which I discoverd while writing a YA contemporary novel that still isn’t completed). You can allow things to naturally progress at their own pace. And then they take off, which can be really exciting.

Image credit: http://mitch-the-plaid.tumblr.com/post/51806158570

Image credit: http://mitch-the-plaid.tumblr.com/post/51806158570

The trouble with pantsing for me was that I got so lost in my own story and didn’t remember where I began and had no idea of where I wanted my novel to go next. So I got discouraged and my novel got put on the shelf, and hasn’t been touched since.

“But I can’t handle not having my outline!!!”- says the hard-core planner

Found on: http://allisaurussrex.tumblr.com/

Found on: http://allisaurussrex.tumblr.com/

In the beginning of last October, I began my research and planning for my NaNo novel. I found some amazing character sketch sheets and filled a notebook with notes, character sketches, and a very basic outline. It was the first time I really planned my writing out. But I read about the dangers of over-planning my novel and didn’t want to have such a tight, constrained outline for my novel that it couldn’t progress naturally. Some people can create a beautiful outline that is stunningly fool-proof and that they can directly transfer over to their novel.

I am not that kind of person.

Actually I’m kind of a hot mess while writing.

Maybe you can have the best of both worlds.

My character sketches were helpful, even though I didn’t really look at them. My outline kind of went out the window except for major plot points which I knew I needed and a lot of the details that I researched.

Found at: http://allisaurussrex.tumblr.com/

Found at: http://allisaurussrex.tumblr.com/

Actually I discovered that my structure for outlining was very constraining, and a loose outline was the way to go with my writing style and with this particular novel.

Having a good outline structure really helps too.

It wasn’t until I was revising that I finally found that outline structure that helps me outline basic plot points that push the plot along. You can get as detailed with the outline as you want, but this makes sure your novel is actually going somewhere. This video explains everything really well. Katytastic is one of my favorite vloggers and has great information about writing.


I now have this plot structure in mind as I write, and only outline a couple of chapters ahead in advance, so I have an idea of plot movement and let my novel progress naturally.

Could this be the best of both worlds? I don’t know, but it works for me!

It’s really all about what works for you.

There’s no right way to go about it. Each writer’s process for planning (or not planning) is just as different than their actual writing process. That’s the beauty of it. That’s why we have such radically different novels and stories. Which is pretty awesome if you ask me 🙂

Are you a pantser or a planner? What is your process like?

Related posts:

Things You Can Do to Prepare for NaNoWriMo

12 thoughts on “To Pants or To Plan (that is the question)

  1. jenspenden says:

    During my first 1-3 drafts, I’m a total panster. I literally sit down at my computer and push “play” on the movie inside my head. Overall, I don’t know what’s going to happen until it happens.

    Once I get into the final, nitpicky edits, that’s when I turn into more of a plotter. It’s no longer so much about writing the story, but about tightening it up and ensuring it makes complete sense with no loopholes or character flaws.

    • amandasnoseinabook says:

      Plotting really helps during revision! I find that it helps me weed out the unnecessary stuff and move scenes/chapters around.

      Drafting however, I like to have a couple of plot points in mind. Sometimes they don’t happen, but I have to have some ideas of what I want in mind.

      I love the idea of writing down the movie in your head! So cool. 🙂

      • jenspenden says:

        I always have to start with a basic concept. But after that, it’s all up in the air until I edit. I have literally been writing in a coffee shop and cried out loud because one of my favorite characters died. I didn’t know it was going to happen until it happened. And I was devastated!

        …And yes, everyone in the coffee shop looked at me like I was crazy, lol

        • amandasnoseinabook says:

          Did you look around afterwards, like “Oops.”

          Usually when I am writing in a coffee shop, I am hand-writing (and I tend to get really into what I am writing when I hand-write). When I realize what I am doing I feel like I must look crazy, all hunched over my notebook, scribbling away, far too close to the page. Haha 🙂

          I guess it’s a writer thing <3

  2. ejsmith3130 says:

    I’m a total planner. It’s my first year attempting NaNo, but I have found total disaster in the past when just trying to write. Ideas fizzle, and I just don’t get anywhere. I am using the Snowflake Method to really flesh out my ideas this year, and get a good overall picture of the story. I also am using the Hero’s Journey to make sure that I have a structure that isn’t going to lag at any point, and will keep the story going. I find it easier to create within these means, and I’m really excited about the things that I’m discovering about my characters and plot through these tools. There still is a lot of room for play and discovery, but I feel confident that I’m going to be able to get where I’m going using these as a roadmap. Best of luck to you all with this year too!

    • amandasnoseinabook says:

      Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting! I love to hear about the process that other writers use when noveling! The snowflake method sounds like it would be a great way to brainstorm too. I might have to give it a try!

      I will be blogging more about NaNoWriMo and writing as it gets closer, so stop by again if you’d like!

      Best of luck to you as well.

  3. Kaine Andrews says:

    Given my own fractured writing style, I’m very much a pantser; I take perverse joy in having no bloody idea what’s coming next. It leads to a lot of migraines down the road – having to correct continuity flaws and details that seemed awesome when I typed them, but ended up being “wrong” for the finished product – but I’d take those headaches over “just” typing up something that I’ve, in essence, already written.
    Also, I’ve noticed that when I try to structure things, force the story down a carefully organized list of “and then this, and that, and those things happen,” the end result feels very stilted and artificial. It’s ugly and aggravating. I may not always like what pours out while pantsing, but it always feels “right” rather than a cruel deity intoning “and now you shall…” to my hapless characters.
    Then again, I am certifiably insane, so could just be the voices in my head again…

    • amandasnoseinabook says:

      It’s very true that when people create such a detailed outline that they are writing something they have already written, I’ve never thought about it that way.
      Even when I have a loose outline of a couple of things I want to happen in the course of however many chapters (usually it’s only 2-3 events), I let the story flow and if it doesn’t happen, I’m not too worried about it.

      Thanks for stopping by and for sharing your opinion and ideas 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *