Monday, 3 December 2012

Pantsing like a Planner

Right, well, I've been on both sides of the divide. Who hasn't been told that not to have a plan is to go without an ending, to invite chaos into your manuscript? In truth, I just wanted to get writing, and think about silly things like an overall story arc later. Here are my reasons for being a pantser and not a planner, plus the pros and cons for each.

- You know exactly where you're going, so you can foreshadow it.
- Your writing is neat and tidy, no unexpected turns
- You don't invite plot holes if you plan properly

- Your characters don't always do what you want them to
- If they don't, you need a new plan
- Lack of flexibility

- No need to plan
- Story grows organically
- Masses of plot twists make the story interesting
- No plot holes, because the story goes where it will

- Lots of little events rather than one overarching story
- Story might not end up as you originally envisioned
- Characters! What are you doing!?

Now, how does this affect me? Well, the seat-of-the-pants approach was something I'd never really thought about until I started with absolutely no planning on November 1. It was scary, but very soon I had main characters, villains, and a story of some sort. It felt good, but I soon realised that I had to drive this story in a particular direction.

This is where the planning element comes in. No matter how much of a pantser you are, everyone needs to plan. Even if it's only a vague plan in your head, telling you where your current plot is going to take you, it needs to be there. That way plot elements can be foreshadowed, without losing that element of surprise that is the most wonderful and frustrating thing about pantsing.

Unless, of course you're a cyborg who can plot the whole thing and make it work without dragging in the slightest. In that case, you don't need this post. If you're that person, I salute you and wonder if I can somehow steal your brain. Because pantsing can be exhausting at the best of times, and coming up with an ending can be like pulling teeth. Seriously.

So even the most serious pantser needs elements of planner, and even the most hardened planner needs to do some planning (or their characters might do it for them). I stand by the approach because I am a fence sitter, and it's what I do. Pantsing is a wonderful thing, but to relieve that stress you need some kind of plot. So sit back and wonder what it is you want to achieve with you story. It's well worth it.

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