Planner or Pantser? That is the question.

When I arrived at the NaNo style camp site I declared to the world that I am a Planner not a Pantser. It is true. I plan and without putting in that work before I start a project, I wouldn’t be able to write anything.

A good few years ago, I read “On Writing” by Stephen King and admired that he could start writing with the smallest idea. I find the concept of writing a novel without knowing where it’s going completely daunting. I tried it once, about ten years ago. I had a basic idea and started writing. I made it to about page thirty and stopped.

I didn’t have any direction. Granted writing a novel about a squirrel secret agent was a stretch, but still. πŸ™‚ (And before you ask that WASN’T really the idea, though it does have promise)

That day I swore, never again would I attempt to write a novel without any planning.

Whilst I was studying creative writing with the OU, I wrote a number of short stories, flash fiction and a couple of longer pieces. I planned every one of them. Some more than others. I might have a rough theme or character idea and go with it, but the work was in the planning.

My Camp NaNo work, which now has a working title: A Scream in the Woods, has a plan. Using the corkboard on Scrivener, I have mapped out a rough 30 chapters guide and have already planned half of the chapters. Key for me to begin a new project is writing a brief outline for the first six and hopefully the last three.

I will deviate from the plan if necessary, but knowing what I want to happen helps me weave the story. I hope to map the remaining chapters before too long so I can concentrate on writing. My trusty notebook will be at the ready as I will question events and write options, scenarios and other ideas as I go along.

For my crime novel I even managed a PowerPoint slide on who the suspects would be and their motives and links to the victims. The more I plan the more I feel comfortable in writing the story. I think that is the key for me. Comfort. Knowing where I’m headed gives me the freedom to do the writing.

I enjoy reading how other writers approach their work. I presume you do too as we all read lots of other blogs about writers. So I decided to ask some other folk how they approach writing a novel. Planner or Pantser? That is the question.

Tomorrow, my first guest will post on my blog. Fanfare, fanfare. Julie from Word Flows will tell us whether she is a Planner or a Pantser. I hope you tune in to read her excellent post on how she approaches writing a Trilogy.

About Pete Denton

I'm a writer working my way through the redrafts of a British crime novel. I also write short stories, flash fiction and some screen writing. Check out my blog for more.
This entry was posted in Camp Nano, Novel In Progress, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Planner or Pantser? That is the question.

  1. Planner although secretly I want to be a pantser. Somehow plotting doesn’t sound as sexy and romantic as “I have an idea and write and that’s just the way I roll….” Good luck at camp.

  2. Pantster for me as I doubt I could create a plan and if I did I’m sure I’d never stick to it.

  3. Julie says:

    Wow, I get fanfare!!! *takes a bow* I’m still so tremendously complimented that you asked me.

  4. Michele says:

    I planned out my second book. I’m a planner in most aspects of my life, and I don’t think that will go away. I have written some flash fiction and have just started writing. Heck, I have even written too much and have to cut a bunch. I had thought about doing Camp NaNo, but I hadn’t planned out my next book. πŸ˜‰ I do want to try it some time, though, because I love the idea of writing a book in a month. It would certainly be a motivator!

  5. Subtlekate says:

    Yeah Scrivener planner. I love it.
    I am a dedicated pantser and while I might know where the next little bit goes, I don’t have a long term plan.

  6. Planner for me, Pete. I write non-fiction.

  7. katkasia says:

    I’m a bit of both! General direction – planner. Details – complete pantser. (Great term by the way, although it does make me think of tanks.)
    I think I might get a bit bored if I knew exactly what was going to be in each chapter, but I can see that it would make the actual writing part much easier.

    I wonder if there is a parallel here between writing style and traveling style?
    When on long trips, we tend to plan arrival and end points, but what happens in the middle we make up as we go along.

    • Pete Denton says:

      Thanks, Kasia. I think the planners probably do that part of the process to differing degrees. Some plan a lot more than others. I know for me the writing is like your travelling style. I know where I start the chapter and where I need to go. The rest is up to the characters. πŸ™‚

  8. I’m a pantser. I just don’t get any inspiration until I start writing, and I like the thrill of not knowing where we’re going!

    On the non-fiction book I’m writing though I tried pantsing it, but it didn’t work at all. I’ve had to plan with that, not extensively, but generally planning what areas will be covered in which chapter.

  9. Pingback: Camp NaNo: 10 Days in « Pete Denton – Writer

  10. Jeannie says:

    I’m a pantser too…and more’s the pity! LOL If I plan the story out, it just doesn’t work for me. I prefer to free write and let it flow. The story just seems to write itself. Lots of rewrites and editing of course. πŸ™‚

  11. Pingback: Guest post: Pantser or Panzer? « Pete Denton – Writer

  12. Lada Ray says:

    I think I am somewhere in-between. πŸ™‚

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