Planners and Pantsers

Every year I try to participate in Nanowrimo. I have not succeeded unequivocally, but at least I have tried.

The good Nano’ers have divided us writers into two different camps: planners and pantsers. The planners prepare their novels right up to the moment of writing. They have intimate character sketches, theme discussions, hidden relationships, in-depth outlines. They’ve got it all and more. The pantsers, on the other hand, start working on their idea the moment they start writing. They’re going by the seat of their pants. They no more know what’s going to happen in their novels than a reader might.

I am, without a doubt, a pantser.

I tried once to be a planner- in my very first novel, written when I was 15/16. The completed manuscript was a bloated 400 pages written from a series of notecards that had little moments and elements that I wanted to capture in my story. I took the notecard approach on the recommendation of a book that claimed it would teach me how to write science fiction and fantasy. I have since disdained the book and, while the notecard approach doubtless works for some, I never re-approached it.

My next book was written in the same year, completely by the seat of my pants. As a result, it was utterly without plot. The next tried to put too small a plot into too large a novel. Again, I had the bloating problem.

Others no doubt have great success with pantsing. But in my work (and this is only a commentary on my work), when I don’t know what’s going to happen next, I wander around in my world until I finally do. Which means that my manuscripts are at best meandering, and at worst overblown.

But for me, pantsing is more fun. During the writing process I am excited; I don’t know what my characters are going to do next and it’s so much fun to find out that I often dispense with the planning in favour of being pleasantly surprised.

But when I recently started work on a new novel, I decided to give planning another try.

Part of this is for research purposes. It will be set in a city much like Renaissance Venice, and I want to be able to capture and express a feel like that.

It’s also because this idea has been following me around in some way or another for eight years. I want it to come to something.

Wish me luck in my endeavours! I will still be pantsing on everything else. Maybe in a few months I’ll put in an update on how the pantsing vs planning is going.