Definition of a pantser: those who write by the seat of their pants.
Or those who sit down and just write, I prefer the term discovery writer. You discover your characters and plot as you go along, the story developing naturally as you write.
Definition of a planner: writers who follow an outline and have their story mapped out before they write it.
I originally started off planning my novel, but I only got so far before I realised I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to happen. I’ve had the back story in my head and the final scene for a while but when I sat down to think what would happen inbetween my mind was blank. I even tried to write character profiles but that didn’t work.
Ever since I was a child I could never plan a story, I’d start writing and make it up as I went along. My teacher in Primary school used to let me write the story first and then write the planning sheets at the end (who?what?when?where?how?). So why I thought I could plan now I don’t know, maybe I was following someone else’s advice. Advice is ok, as long as it doesn’t stop you from doing things your way and get in the way of your writing.
“If you spend enough time with your characters, plot simply happens.” – Chris Baty, No Plot? No Problem
I realised that I needed to start writing my novel and get to know my characters, so I did. Worried that I’d end up with a story of absolute drivel with no direction I started anyway. My characters came alive and minor characters popped into existence. When I was writing ideas for future scenes came into my head. My story was taking off and I felt great.
Planning Vs Pantsing
I did eventually come to a stop, so I’d skip ahead and write scenes that were in the future and then jump back, writing wherever my muse took me. Now though I worry that I have a disorganised novel, with gaps I need to fill in. And to make it even harder some is handwritten and some typed up. But:
I’m hoping that in the rewriting stage I can organise the plot, thinking of Terry Prachett’s words makes me hopeful, I can figure it all out in the next stage. You never know I might find gems of ideas and my story might seem less drivel and more exciting than I thought.
I still need to be more organised though: I started to keep a chart of minor characters so I knew who I’d written, forgetting to update it of course. I could make a note of each scene I finish so then I know what I’ve written and can see the story in note form before my eyes.
I wish I’d thought of this earliar because over 40,000 words in going back and organising my papers is a big job. But it’s a lesson I can keep in mind for next time. I’m so concerned with getting the words down, that I forget to be organised. Organising is a big job, but it’s something I need to learn to do -I try but fail- to make my writing life easier.
Plan or not?
In the end, it all comes down to personal preference, just find what works for you. And like me learn from your experience. I’ve learnt that planning doesn’t work for me. I’ve learnt that I need to be more organised so that I can avoid being stuck and forgetting what happens next. You learn so much about writing and your process just by getting it done.
Are you a planner or a pantser/ discovery writer?
Word count update/ CampNaNoWriMo update: GOAL: 2,500 words a week
Finally made up last weeks word count yesterday and wrote 966 today. The weeks not over yet, had a few scene ideas today after sticking it out and looking over my novel so far 🙂