Pantsing v. Plotting

So. Today is June 30th, and tomorrow is July 1st.

I don’t know if that means anything special for you, but for me that means Camp NaNoWriMo is starting. I did a post on this a while back, just before the April edition. Doing NaNoWriMo during school is usually unnecessarily stressful for me. I’m doing so much writing and reading and other stuff already that writing 1677 words every day on top of it usually isn’t feasible.

But it’s July and, although I work, I don’t have homework. Even if I’m terrible at the consistency thing, I can read and write as much as I want—theoretically speaking.

I’ve been doing “a lot” of preparation. For me, at least.

See, I used to be what NaNoers (and other writers) call a pantser. Fly by the seat of your pants, don’t plan anything ahead of time, and just go. I would get an idea, I would sit down, and I would write. Sometimes I got a lot written doing that. I’ve gotten some 30 thousand words down doing that (not in one sitting, but in one NaNo). However, I think that this pattern contributed to my inability to finish anything. Once I’d started something, I didn’t always know how to continue it, or how to connect the scenes that I’d written out already. I still have quite a few unfinished projects that I’m keeping, wondering if I can do something with them at a later point in time. Maybe I can.

For the past year or so, I’ve been trying to become more of a plotter—I’ve been attempting to plan and organize and predict before I actually sit down to write (or even as I’m writing). In terms of school papers, this has sort of worked. I think, in some ways, it’s made writing easier. My fiction is still largely a hit or miss. Sometimes, I prepare and plan and plot and nothing ever comes out of it. I have a journal with three or four plots that I just never got around to writing. Sometimes, I give up on the plot and just write, and I usually find myself in pretty much the same situation as before: I don’t know how to continue (sometimes even when I know what needs to happen next).

As a whole, I do think that plotting has helped me become a better writer. That’s just me, though. I’m not saying that plotting is better than pantsing (some people call this architect versus gardener, too), or even the reverse. I’m saying that maybe plotting works better for me.

And I’m saying that what works for you is what you should do.

But that maybe trying something new won’t hurt either. I know some pantsers find plotting restrictive, and prefer to go back and edit than to prepare for writing. I know some plotters get lost without an outline, and like having something structured to come back to. I’m not entirely sure where I fit—I need to find my own personal balance.

That’s kind of my point with this whole thing. Do what works for you. Don’t worry about what anybody else is doing.

I have my world loosely set up. I have an idea for the 9 parts of my plot structure (using two different sources to help me out). I’m trying to figure out my characters a little bit more before I get to writing—and leaning a bit on archetypes to help me out. I plan to write 50 thousand words this July. I don’t mind if I don’t finish. I don’t mind if the first draft isn’t great (in fact, I’m of the belief that any first draft can be improved). I’m going to try and post maybe weekly updates on the blog, to let you guys know how I’m doing and a bit to keep me accountable as well.


Thanks for reading!
Are you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo?
Are you a pantser or a plotter?
What sort of preparation do you do for writing?


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11 thoughts on “Pantsing v. Plotting

  1. I can’t wait for Camp NaNo tomorrow! I’ve always been a pantser as well, but after a month of preparing I still feel excited for what might occur when I sit down to write. I’m hoping I’ll stick to the plot I devised but I still think there’s a little room to play with what I got. I definitely would be interested in seeing weekly updates here! I’ll be sticking with my weekly Wednesday ones. The alliteration is too good to pass on ^_^ Good luck this month and I hope to learn more about your project!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s part of what I’m liking about planning–I still don’t know exactly how it’ll go, but I have a direction, and that’s really exciting. I’m still debating exactly how much I want to share about my project, in part because I don’t know what’s changing or staying the same.

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  2. I know how you feel about writing. I would call myself a pantser (is that what you called it?) But I admit I need elements of a plotter in my writing life. I need a brief plan of whatever the heck I’m writing otherwise who knows how many tangents I’ll fly to.

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  3. I still haven’t worked out where I fall in the plotting/pantsing divide. I know that if I don’t have an idea of where my story’s going I can’t sit down and write, at least, not past the first few thousand words written in a heady rush when the story first comes to me (I have 10k words of a novel on my computer, written in less than a week in the evenings after work, and I have No Clue what to do with them). At the same time, though, I just can’t work out what’s going to happen without writing the characters IN these situations and writing them responding to them. For instance, if I plan to have my protag abducted by aliens, well, I have to write that abduction and write her feelings and actions so that I know what she does after being abducted by aliens.

    I find Susan Dennard’s “scene screenplays” really helpful in this regard (Linky: http://susandennard.com/2013/10/how-i-plan-a-book-part-3-scene-level-planning/). I can get a broad outline of the story out, then write the screenplay for the next scene after I finish writing for the day. It gives me a bit if guidance and a chance to think about where the story’s going next, without trying to plan the entire thing in advance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That looks like a really useful resource. Thanks for sharing!

      I don’t know if I’d call it a divide so much as a spectrum, which I didn’t really talk about here, with plotter on one end and pantser on the other, and pretty much everyone in between. I don’t think there’s really a pure either one, and finding yourself in the middle is normal. Your process also sounds really interesting. I’ve found that I can plan ahead like that, but sometimes that the characters don’t act the way I predicted they would so I have to change things.

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