Autumn is the official season for NaNoWriMo preparation. This means preparing my story for National Novel Writing Month for November.
For about three days last week, I eagerly began planning out my story for my third NaNoWriMo and thought to myself: What kind of writer am I?
I used to just dive right in and start writing whenever an exciting idea formed inside my head. In other words, I was a pantser.
Pantser: NaNoWriMo term used to describe a Wrimo who is winging it and writing without a fixed outline or any outline at all.
For NaNoWriMo, I’ve started to plan my stories in more detail, so that I don’t get stuck along the way.
I’ve used the three-act structure (Setup, Confrontation and Resolution) which gave me a good idea of where my story headed but this was only a rough outline. This year I’ve been experimenting with the snowflake method.
In Randy Ingermanson’s snowflake method, you start out with the basic: a one-sentence summary of your story. Then, you write a paragraph of your plot line and then you outline a one-page summary for each character story line. Basically, you’re adding more and more onto the foundation of the story, just as you’d add more detail to the outline of a snowflake. (There’s even a spreadsheet step which I find really terrifying). I really like this method because I’m critically thinking through the elements of my story.
Both pantsing and planning are completely legitimate though–and neither method is right or wrong. Writing on instinct and intuition capitalizes on the spontaneity of writing, where you get a really great idea in the middle of writing or write a really awesome sentence that just feels right.
Writing with a plan in mind gives you clear direction and helps you identify plot holes. You really know your characters, the story and the world you’re writing about.
But with pantsing you often get stuck and aren’t quite sure where your story is headed (you never do, but you really don’t know with instinctual writing). When you plan, you take away the excitement and discovery that comes with spontaneous writing.
I used to be a pantser but am now more of a planner because it works for me. I’ve written work I’m satisfied with just by following my intuition. However, without a concrete and detailed plan for a month-long project like NaNoWriMo, I often ended up stuck and frustrated.
I’m not going to over plan though. I’m only taking about a week to outline my story and then let it rest a bit until November. So far I’ve come up with a detailed plot line and profiles of my major characters. Now I just need to outline my setting and world, probably with a map as those seem to work very well with fantasy stories.
Are you a pantser or planner? Or maybe somewhere in between?
I’d be really interested to hear fellow writers’ thoughts on this! 🙂