“Pantser” and “Planner” are terms I picked up from then NaNoWriMo community. While I gave up on ever writing 50K words in a month (I prefer my own pace because forcing a story never works for me), I still support those who take on the challenge and adopt some of their philosophies. A Pantser is someone who writes by the seat of one’s pants, meaning without an outline to guide them, while a Planner…well, plans. Neither label is better than the other – in my opinion – and the choice completely depends on the individual.
Until recently I was a Pantser. Whenever I got inspiration for a new idea, I’d be so excited about it and start the first chapter right away. Then I would hit a wall by the second chapter. At most I made up scenes as I went. This alone made me abandon many stories because I never bothered to chip away at said wall. I’d lose interest in the idea, conclude it wasn’t as great as I thought it was, and move on to the next Great Idea. I never wanted to stop and re-examine the characters, plot or potential themes. My inspiration moved on so I went right along with it.
Inspiration is a tricky devil. It makes mediocre ideas THE BEST THING EVER and distracts me from investing in my current work. Before the story had any depth, I’d get distracted by the shiny new idea waiting to be developed. Without an outline or any idea of how the middle will flow into the conclusion, I had difficulty committing to the story. Why bother when a dozen other ideas sound much better than the one right in front of me?
My novella series “Define Reality” turned me into a Planner. It originally started as a television script, so for once I already had every single plot point mapped out. This made a huge difference when I finally wrote the novella version. I could focus on characters and theme instead of worrying about where the hell I was going with all this. Oh sure, I still had to figure out a bunch of stuff along the way, but the basics were there. I also felt comfortable adding things knowing how they fit into the overall picture. Even though I didn’t write the novella in a thirty days, I finished in less than six months and was happy with the results.
I think I will always “pants” a little bit. There will be times when I’ll go totally off-outline and add in scenes I concoct during the writing process. Going forward though, I want to put more effort into outlining the whole story. If nothing else, it’s a relief to know I won’t end up in the Middle of Nowhere without map.