Guest Post: Planner or Pantser: Craig Hallam

First of all, hello everyone, and thanks to Pete for having me. I’m Craig, and don’t feel bad, you shouldn’t have heard of me. I’ve never written anything you’ve read and even your most Hipster of friends isn’t alternative enough to know what’s going in my writing career. However, I’m hoping that’s all going to change. Soon, I hope to be able to consider myself a Pseudo-writer. It’s all riding on the release of Greaveburn, my debut novel (no pressure there, then).

However, what I lack in wads of filthy cash and literary prestige, I’ve gained in experience of what it is to be an amateur writer. And so Pete has tossed me this question…Planner or Pantser?

This is actually a pretty tough one. I have a tendency to avoid anything that means organising myself, or generally making my life easier. When people ask where I get my ideas from, I tend to answer with an analogy based on the Big Bang. With enough random, disorganised stuff lying around in my head, something is bound to collide at some point, creating the ever-coveted Inspiration Particle. And when it does…woohoo! But that’s a pretty chaotic way of looking at it.

On the flip side, I’m a fan of Post-Its, and I love my notebooks. But the Post-Its fall down eventually and I can never commit to just one notebook at a time. I’m a notebook bigamist. So that doesn’t get me any closer to being an organised planner. Sometimes I have to search back through pages of scribble and doodles to find something I’m looking for. And that leads to all kinds of distractions. Greaveburn had snippets of character, plot and description scattered across loose sheets of lined A4 and three separate notebooks by the time I was done writing the first draft. It’s a wonder I ever got it all together. Or maybe I didn’t, and there’s some hidden Director’s Cut material hanging around somewhere. Who knows?

But, as I started work on my next project, I have seen the light. It is shiny, and it is called Evernote. I’m far from a tech-head, but this app really sorted me out. Anything you type into your phone (which I never forget, like I do with notebooks) gets instantly saved. You can have several ‘notebooks’ for different things, and they are filed away with a category to make it easier to find later. But to beat it all, what you type in gets uploaded to the internet, so that if you lose your phone/drop it into a bottomless pit/aliens use it as a proxy server to call home and fry it, you don’t lose a thing! It’s all there waiting for you! Much recommended, folks.

But that’s just the pre-writing stage.

When it comes to writing proper, actually sitting down and typing, I don’t really plan very much (shocker!). But I do a lot of re-running in my head. My characters are in there, I know the general plot and the way I expect things to go (although we all know how that ends up). And I play the story to myself, like a movie, over and over, weedling at the plot out as I go along. The beauty of this very visual method is that when I put my fingers on the keyboard, the description pretty much writes itself. The more vivid it is to me, the more vivid it is to the reader (hopefully). There’s a downside to this internal method, though, especially when writing some of my horror stories. I have a tendency to freak myself out. That monster outside the bedroom door is outside MY bedroom and I find myself walking around with the lights on a lot. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. If it scares me enough, hopefully it will scare you too.

I think I’m leaning more toward being a Pantser, so far. Unless research counts. I’m a research fiend. If I’m writing about a particular time period, or place, or the character has a certain job for example, I’m all over it. I recently used Google Maps’ street view to get an idea of what a certain part of India looked like, and researched the whole Indian Revolution in the late 1800s for the same story. I didn’t use any of the info, really, but I felt a lot more confident in what I was doing with the information in my head. Research is king.

Anyways, like the true politician I am (note the sarcasm), I’ve managed to talk a lot and not actually answer any questions here. And so, reading back over this post myself, I think I now know that I’m a proud Pantser (bit like a panther, but less cool and wearing y-fronts). And I’ll be tweeting to that effect very soon.

Thanks for reading.

Greaveburn by Craig Hallam

Greaveburn hits the shelves (both virtual and corporeal) in most major book retailers on August 20th from Inspired Quill Publishing.

Contact Craig

eMail: craighallam@live.vom

Twitter: @craighallam84





About Craig Hallam

Author of Speculative Fiction. Not Before Bed, The Adventures of Alan Shaw and Greaveburn are out now. Embrace the Weird!
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9 Responses to Guest Post: Planner or Pantser: Craig Hallam

  1. Pete Denton says:

    Thanks again for writing a great guest post, Craig.

    There seems to be more pantsers than planners judging by comments on other posts over the last few days. I do enjoy reading how other writers approach their craft. All part of the learning process.

  2. Nice guest post Craig. I’m a pantser too with the exception of when I’m writing about a particular place. Like you I like to have an idea of the layout before I have a character walk it, but that’s only been the case in one book so far. My fourth will be similar but I’ve worked out a way to have my characters provide me with the geography so I’m OK. That’s if the fourth ever gets written.
    I wish you the very best of luck with your debut novel.

  3. Craig Hallam says:

    Thanks guys. Believe it or not, I wrote it in true Pantzer fashion…all in one go hahaha

  4. Pantsers rule! I tend to wish I was more of a planner, but planning is booorrring!

    It’s so exciting about your book coming out, Craig I’m definitely going to read it.

    • Craig Hallam says:

      Cheers Vanessa! Hope you like it!

      Everyone seems to be a Pantser! It’s more fun that way, anyway. Especially when you’re writing Speculative Fiction. Be damned with ther ules!

  5. Guilie says:

    Hahahaha… All pantsters here, I see 🙂 Yep, me too. And I *loved* the “notebook bigamist” thing. Describes me to a T–but maybe it should be “polygamist”? Planning definitely has its pros, but like Vanessa said, it’s boooooring, and it feels like it takes out the razzle-dazzle of finding out where the story takes me. Then again, my editor suggested something I’ve been doing lately and it seems to work for me. When I’m about to write a chapter–or, if it’s not a first draft, when I’m going to revise–I make notes on what the chapter is *for*. Where does the character begin and end, emotionally? (I write character-driven angsty human drama) What’s the source of tension in this particular scene / chap? How does this scene / chap raise the stakes for the story? Without being out-and-out outlining, this actually has helped me keep my scenes from meandering all over the place like hummingbirds.

    Great post, Craig, and great to meet you. Peter, thanks for having Craig over!

  6. 4amWriter says:

    I love the freedom and creativity of pantsing, but my plots have suffered greatly as a result. I go off into tangents and subplots galore. I would like to try to find some balance with pantsing and plotting as I write my first draft to my current WIP, but I’m not sure if that’s even possible.

  7. It’s really cool that you keep track of these things. 🙂 I read about an author who tracked wordcount, location, and a bunch of stuff in his Excel spreadsheet to figure out where he was best at editing vs. drafting (Starbucks or at his desk).

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

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