Pantser or Planner? Which One Are You?

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! 🙂

8 thoughts on “Pantser or Planner? Which One Are You?”

    1. You seem like the very organized type 🙂 I often waver between the two as well. I began to wonder if it’s based on the length of the project- whether you decide to extend your writing over a year or a few months, and if that affects people’s approaches.

      Thanks so much- I’m really excited for this year’s NaNo. 😀

      1. I usually do the same thing by sketching out scenes, characters and major events but I find that the snowflake method makes it really structured. I actually discovered the snowflake method this year. 🙂

  1. Hi, thanks for following my blog! loved the article, I was thinking that I´m more of a planner, because in some way I really need to know where I´m heading to… but at the same time I´ve discovered, that I also love spontaneity. I´ve started a book a couple of months ago and at the beginning I made several outlines for it; however, in the process I started changing many things in the plot just because I felt I need to change them and I also got a better understanding of how the characters were really like, and how they will truly act.. but having an initial “outline” gave a sense of relief that I knew where I was going to…
    Anyway, it´s good to hear from a fellow writer!

    1. You’re welcome and thank you for following mine as well 🙂 Thanks, I’m happy to hear you enjoyed reading it. I feel the same way: I love the spontaneity of writing in the moment but find I’m a little lost without an outline, even if it’s very loose. Thanks for sharing your perspective on the writing process. 😀

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