Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Planning or Pantsing - Which is the Best Way to Write? #WriterlyWednesdays 9

Welcome to Writerly Wednesdays 9 and the eternal question, is pantsing or planning a better writing method.
Planning or Pantsing
Which is the Best Way to Write?

Let me begin by explaining what I mean by "Pantsing" in case you are unfamiliar with the term, since planning it fundamentally obvious. Pantsing is when you write as it comes to you and is a shortening of the term 'by the seat of your pants'.

There is a very simple answer to this question:
Whatever works for you.

However, that's not an overly useful conclusion if you're still trying to work it out.

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Personally I am a pantser - I just start writing at whichever point of the story I feel like and then hop around filling in the scenes that pop into my head. I create characters, locations and everything else as I go. Only when I reach a tipping point, usually somewhere after halfway, do I become a planner, sitting down and thinking hard about what the story is missing. That's when I add in scenes and details, planning out the whole structure of the book with chapters to get a feel for what still needs doing.

My twin sister, on the other hand, is very much a planner. Some of her scene outlines are longer than my scenes :). She plans, she preps and then she launches in, writing from the beginning to the end.

The only real way to work out what is best for you is to try it out.

Indications you might lean one way or the other:

Likes to discover character traits through writing the character into situations
Likes to know the ins and outs of a characters personality to finely craft all the nuances
Doesn't mind interrupting the writing to go off and research a place name having just decided on somewhere new.
Doesn't like interrupting the creative process to deal with details like locations.
Has baby names sites on the bookmarks bar for quick access when a new character is needed.
Has baby name sites nearly ordered in a bookmarks folder for use all at the same time.
Is perfectly happy to go back and change parts of the narrative because something creative and wonderful happened further through the book.
Tends to be annoyed by having to change details because there has been an alteration of the plan in later chapters.
Writes scene outlines along the lines of 'Character a goes to talk to character b at location z ... undead!'
Writes scene outlines along the lines of 'Character a goes to talk to character b about the situation with character c. They meet at location z and talk for several hours about how character c is in league with demons and plans to raise an army of the undead. Character a is very upset ...' etc

There is, however, one thing I cannot stress enough, not matter which you are, pantser or planner:

When you have decided on something, write is down in a reference document of some sort.

Nothing is more annoying than knowing you made your dashing heroes eyes blue, but not being able to remember if it was cornflower blue or cerulean ;). Okay, yes, that is a joke, but the point is still very valid. 

I once spent half a book with a character blond and half a book with the same character a brunet without the use of hair dye of any kind. I didn't write it down the first time I mentioned it and then forgot I had mentioned it in the first place, so when I mentioned it in another place I randomly picked the wrong colour. I only caught it on the read through later.

As you can probably tell I don't always have clear mental pictures of my characters because I try to only mention things that are important at the time. A few of them have been cast in my imagination, but a lot of them are more amorphous than that.

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I've mentioned it before and I'm mentioning it again yWriter is very good program for organising the details for you so you can find them again.

If you're still not sure which camp works best for you, simply have a go and see which you prefer. For example, write a short story from a photo or word prompt and just start putting words on paper to see where it takes you. Then do the same exercise, but plan out what scenes you want and who all your characters are before you start the actual writing.

If I am not careful the second method leaves me bored and uninspired, which is how I know I am fundamentally a pantser, but I know for others it is what makes their creative juices flow.

There is no right and wrong way to go about the writing process. Some people like to brainstorm at the beginning, others like to brainstorm as they go along, some like to do a bit of both. Go with what feels good for you, just remember to stay organised - it saves lots of headaches later :).

Which are you, planner or pantser? What is your favoured method of organising your book info?

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  1. That's the beauty of yWriter, it works for both planners and pantsers, so does Scrivener, but in a different way.

    I do pants it sometimes, but not very often, although I have to agree that my characters are amorphous in my head like yours, only the points that matter being clear.

    1. I have two visually based on certain people, the others are much more changeable :)

  2. I'm a pantser. It works when I'm in the middle of a project, but it's not so good when I'm at the beginning (which I am now). I've tried planning, but it really doesn't work for me. I might need to try again for this project, because I'm going no where at the moment.

    1. I wish you luck with you current project. Maybe a bit of brainstorming with slivers of ideas could help, so somewhere halfway between the two methods?

  3. I've always pantsed but I really want to try planning more next time. My most recent work was pantsed and then I wrote an outline after the fact, then went back and basically rewrote it. It was way more time consuming than it needed to be.

    1. Soph and I have to plan when we're writing together, but she is far more disciplined than me with that stuff. Good luck with the planning for the next work. I tend to change things as I go along if I'm not happy - probably is extra work, but means I don't get bored ;)

  4. I'm somewhere in between. Lately I tend to make fairly detailed (though not very formal) outlines and then not stick to them, because when it comes to the actual writing I realize that what I've outlined wouldn't work. I'm not sure whether the cure for that is more planning or less.

    1. Amorphous plans - sounds interesting. I have no idea if more or less planning would make things better either :). Too much planning might be too rigid if your brain likes to go off on tangents.

  5. I'm a big panster. I might plot out the next scene and write it down when I'm done writing for the day, but that's mostly so I don't forget.

    1. Oh yes - the don't forget notes - always useful. I mean we've all had that brilliant idea before bed and woken up knowing we had it but unable to remember what on earth it was, haven't we!


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