We’ve done a lot of planning recently, but it’s time to talk about pantsing. A lot of writers identify as a “planner” or a “pantser.” A lot of other writers hate these terms. Basically, planners like to outline and have a solid plan before they start writing, and pansters like to make everything up as they go and see what happens. I don’t think any writer falls neatly into either one of these categories all the time, but people definitely seem to have a preference on how much planning they do before they start their draft.
If you’re a planner, it’s ok to get a brilliant idea mid-draft and rework your entire plan to make it work. It’s also ok to decide that idea wasn’t so brilliant and go back to your original plan, or make a third, even more brilliant plan.
If you’re a pantser, it’s ok to stop writing mid-draft because you finally realized you have a million different loose ends to tie up and you have no idea how it’s all going to come together. You can stop drafting long enough to figure some of it out. Do a little planning. Just enough to know where you’re headed. Then go back to drafting and making things up.
I fall somewhere in the middle, but I’m generally more of a panster. I do some planning. I know who my characters are, even if I don’t write everything about them down. I know the main plot points, how the story starts and I have a good idea of how it’s going to end. But everything in between I like to make up as I go. I like to have the freedom to explore ideas as they come to me and to let my characters react to things and develop as the story unfolds. I don’t want to be tied to a strict outline and I don’t want to feel like I wasted time outlining if I decide to change everything halfway through. But I don’t like to feel directionless either. Planning certainly pays off when it comes time to do revisions and there are significantly less plot holes to fill and fewer loose ends to tie up. So I’m in between, and I’m still finding my happy medium.
What about you? Do you plan most of your story ahead of time? Or do you love the challenge and freedom of a blank page?