4.18.2014

A to Z Challenge: Planners vs. Pantsers

This post is part of the April A-Z Blogging Challenge. This year my theme is simply, "things I know." Some posts will be informational, some about life lessons, some about things I've learned as an author/blogger.

A fun debate that comes up from time to time in the writing/blogging/NaNo world is whether it is better to be a Planner or a Pantser

A Planner is a writer who lays everything out, knows just where the story and characters are going, has done all the research in advance before they even start to write. For those of you Meyers-Briggs fans, Planners are J's. A Pantser is someone who 'flies by the seat of their pants' while writing. They maybe have a first line, or a basic plot they're thinking of, but in the end they're just going wherever the story takes them. Pantsers are P's on the MBTI. There was a great blog article over at NaNoWriMo a couple years ago that had 280 comments of people debating and sharing their preference. Good stuff.

So after yesterday's post on being organized, you're all probably thinking I'm a total Planner. Nope! While I am organized in every other part of my life and am a total J on the MBTI, I actually write better when I go wherever the story takes me. When I plan too hard the writing starts to feel like homework. And remember back in school when you'd do anything to not do homework? Yeah, me too. For me the writing is better when it's a process of discovery, and I just don't get the same rush when I'm outlining and planning ahead. This was a very good thing to discover, and why it falls into my theme of "things I know" - I've killed a couple good stories by overplanning them. Lost my steam, the thrill of discovery. I know that I write better when letting the story write itself.

I'm about halfway through Steven King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (which I highly recommend, btw), and it turns out he feels similarly. He starts with an idea for a situation and then just sticks a couple people into it and sees what happens.

How about y'all? Are you Pantsers, or Planners?

9 comments:

  1. I'm a pantser while being a planner wanna-be. I really want to plan my writing because then I would probably actually get more writing done. Instead, I end up just throwing stuff together and hoping it all ends up making some sort of sense, especially for my blog.

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  2. I think I'm a combination of both. On being a Pantser, I know the destination and have an idea of the journey but my characters live their lives how they want to and they dictate the direction they take. Where I am a Planner is in checking and double checking that the journey is still on track. It takes time but I find it worth it.

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  3. Yes, I am with you. I have a plan in my head to start with, but as I write I let the story take me to where it wants to go.

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  4. I am a mixed bag. I have an idea and even jot notes, but no formal outline. And yes, Stephen King's book is one I've read several times.

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  5. I like this breakdown :) as a "P" on the MBTI test (which I believe I first took in Res Life?), I am usually in the "pantser" category. The pantser in me wants to just walk into a story (having the cake), but I of course would prefer it somehow coming out perfect (eating it too). That being said, my job requires a lot of just plain action, often by the hacker motto "done is better than perfect." So things like having A-Z prompts are very helpful, because they give me just enough structure to work from. In the end, I totally agree with you that it's sooo useful to learn this about yourself so projects don't get lost. Thanks!

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  6. Planner! I tried pansting and never finished a novel. I got halfway through and had no idea where to go next, got discouraged, and stopped. I wrote my first novel after writing an 11 page outline. TamaraDaresToWrite.blogspot.com

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  7. I like planning and seat of the pants writing. I tend to do both. Plan it out, then let the scenes come in as they will. I really enjoyed Stephen King's book, except for the part where he insinuates that it doesn't matter how much practice you invest in, if you don't have it, you can't get it (writing well, I mean) and that's depressing! And then in the last fourth of the book, in my humble opinion, he went a bit off the deep end with his whining about the accident. I know it was horrible and he now has to walk with a limp, but really? Maybe he wrote it as a cathartic moment. In a book about writing. I'm sorry if I sound harsh, but he is and has been so successful, and he survived, wasn't killed, thank goodness ,in that accident. In my opinion, he has been given a second chance and doesn't sound happy about that fact. I just wish he seemed to appreciate what he has. Yes, I admit freely I envy his success! Sorry about the rant!!!!

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  8. Interesting, how you be both? I mean if ones tendency is organization/planning how can you be willie nillie....doesn't it make you kinda crazy?

    Not being a writer, maybe I can't relate; but for example had 24 of the 26 posts written and scheduled ahead. Knowing I would be out of town for the first couple of days, wanted to be prepared. Since then wrote one...down to one......and it's making me crazy caused it's not planned and my brain isn't coming up with anything.

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  9. Always been a pantser myself.

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