Planning vs Pantsing

Planning vs Pantsing… which side are you guys on?

I wrote Sector12 by the seam of my pants. I had a vague idea in mind and just went for it. Which was great, because I had a novel. But sucked, because I had a novel riddled with plot holes.

At the moment, I’m jumping on the “planning” bandwaggon. I’m spending the month of December planning and plotting a new novel that I’ll start writing in January. It’s called Wrapped in Darkness and is going to be an urban/fantasy set in Purgatory 🙂 It is a novel that has been swirling around in my head for about six years so I’m really excited to start writing it. My general goal is to write it January-March, edit from April-June and then start hunting for an agent mid-2014. *nods* I am very good with timelines.

So what do you guys think? Plan or pants?

About Jodie @ Words Read & Written

Book blogger & aspiring author.
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29 Responses to Planning vs Pantsing

  1. Hi again, Jodie. I’m very much on the Planning side of it. I blab about this on my blog (and just tonight posted a long one detailing my method). Would love to hear your feedback.

    Daniel

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  2. deanmcsmith says:

    Hey there
    Pantser v Planner? Why not both? I’m not copping out here, just suggesting a third option that I like to use. I tend to start off with a fairly loose plan, you know, main characters, ideas for scenes, how to escalate etc etc, and then I write to the points that I’ve made, allowing the characters to tell me the story. Every couple of days I’ll take a look at where the stories going and try and plan ahead, but just a little, otherwise it can be an exercise in herding cats. I find it works for me, and maybe a variation on it will work for you too. Keep on keeping on Jodie, all the best.
    Dean

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  3. I’ve tried several ways. Pantsing didn’t work out too well. Making bookend outlines worked better. One to get started and one to sew things up. Plotting works best for me. I can always change the outline if I need, but I work best with a roadmap.

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  4. I’m a pantser, myself. I start out with nothing more than a blank Word document and a dream. Then as things progress–as I get ideas for scenes, characters, etc–I start to arrange them in what I suppose could be called an outline. I used to use 3×5 cards but now I use various computer programs. The end product usually ends up looking WAY different than the initial idea, but it’s the surprise and adventure that keep me coming back to the keyboard every day. 🙂

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  5. Paul Davis says:

    Brief planning. I usually have note cards with names, brief descriptions (often times written as I write the story), including physical information and quirks just so I keep it straight. Before I write, I’ll generally write a few sentences for each chapter, as to what I want it to accomplish. During my editing I go through each scene and list out what the purpose is. More than anything, I try to have three major plot points, and at the end of the day, I’m just trying to hit those.

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  6. I typed a table of contents with the titles for each chapter and a short synopsis for each one. The novel took on a life of its own after chapter seven; two new chapters and a new minor character just emerged. I don’t know if that would’ve happened if I had a strict plan.

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  7. hesthermay says:

    I pants a lot. But for NaNoWriMo, I spent October planning a story. It was a bit short time I guess, but I was way too excited to start writing. I had a general outline for the story, but during the writing process I changed some MAJOR things.
    I have preferred pantsing until now… I’m rather neutral.

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  8. dustomundo says:

    I’m very big on starting with a vague idea and following the story wherever it needs to take me. Years ago, when I read about Stephen King’s similar approach as told in On Writing, I could never envision myself writing that way, but I’ve since seen the errors in my ways (not that there’s anything wrong with planning,) and thrive off of writing by the seam of my pants.

    Wonderful topic, Jodie!:) I also wanted to let you know that I’m new to your blog, but am enjoying it VERY much!

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  9. with two projects done and the third in the works, I say pants. I did zero planning for the first two and it went very well. This third one, I went on a trip, did research, wrote diagrams, and now that it’s in the writing stage it’s painstaking, all these guilt feelings like i’m not sticking to the plan or that I’m missing something. Pantsing ALL THE WAY!

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  10. Naturally I lean more toward the pantsing side, because I’m so eager to write. But, I’ve learned through two NaNoWriMos now that it’s better to plan. I think if you plan a bit you have some direction for where your story is headed.

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  11. I think setting a timeframe on your writing is great to plan. I can’t plot out a story. Mine have a basic start and from there it flows like mercury whichever way it wants to go.

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  12. I would love to be a pantser, and for all practical purposes I am, but I tend to retroactively plan, if that makes any sense.I just sit down to write and let my characters tell me what’s going on, then when I have something to go with, when I’m afk I let myself daydream and plan about how they got there, where they might be going in the next week or month, or six months – and then I sit down to write again and my characters take a left turn and I’m left to retro-plan again.

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  13. I always plan, but it can be annoying when you spend time planning only for it to change completely! Time frames are brilliant and should be stuck to, but not at a cost. If you know you need an extra week or so, it’s best to go with your gut instinct. I spoke about this on my blog.

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  14. I think you need the outline of a plan, and then you need to pants it. The plan will prepare you and then your writing instincts can take it from there.

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  15. Andrew says:

    Personally, I’m definitely an outliner. another thought to think about when doing an outline is the cost of tossing out a bad outline versus tossing out a bad novel. How frustrating is it to toss out 15k words versus throwing out 15 bullet points.

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  16. I like starting with a one-liner & synopsis, then outline, then chapter titles & summaries when writing a book. That said, I really enjoy the planning of it all. Happy writing and sounds like a cool concept! Truly, Lee.

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  17. bri says:

    I prefer to do a little of both. My best stories come out of my head very quickly but I need to set goals and plan as well or I would never finish things.

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  18. Well, the entry you just read called, “Stranded” on my blog is a pantser. I had an itch to write a story and I pondered on a subject and came up with what I had. I am trying to think of all holes I could provide myself by not planning. But I have a notepad next to me writing out ideas and making sure I hit key points that I can refer back to and create even more sub-plots off of.

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  19. I think that you have to take a balanced approach to produce your best work. I’ve always been a planner and up until recently, I was a planner and not a writer. You can only plan for so much. Once you get into the trenches, you always find different directions to take the story in.

    For me, flying by the seat of my pants has taken me some interesting places, but I’m still operating within my original framework. It’s just helpful to explore character development moments when they come up, even if they weren’t your original intention.

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  20. melodyspen says:

    I actually wrote about this on my blog, as well, but now I have a name for it! “Pantser!” 100%. Once I get an idea and the urge to write, there’s no stopping it – but I’m not sure if that’s a good way, since I tend to run into constant research blocks (I have to stop to research, so no writing is getting done! Not very efficient.) So, I guess I kind of formulate plans along the way. Mostly, though, my characters are totally driving this bus and I’m just along for the ride, occasionally pulling the stop chord in order to run into the library, while they grumble impatiently. 🙂

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  21. Faythe. says:

    I’m both, actually. I wrote by the seat of my pants first, and then when I hit up against the writer’s block wall, I sit down and write that plot outline and start to plan everything out more. I’ve written one YA fantasy novel (haven’t published it yet, but it’s finished), and I started it by writing whatever came into my head. About 20,000 words in, writer’s block descended, and I spent a couple weeks creating a solid, detailed plot outline. After that, it was just a matter of taking each point of the outline and expanding it, then once the first draft was finished, editing, editing, editing.

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  22. Most of the time I also write without planning. I hate planning, but maybe it would be good for me to do so 😀

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  23. I am a planning maniac! Love it to death…and sometimes to the subsequent death of my inspiration lol. Like you said, it’s a fine line between thorough planning and a stealthy form of procrastination. But, I like to err on the side of over planning rather than under.

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  24. theotherwoman97 says:

    I think that most of the time pantsing (love the term, BTW) works for me; were I ever to try a novel though, I’d definitely come down on the planning side of things. I’m very eager to learn more about your new novel… The idea is completely intriguing!!

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  25. My books are sort of written by my characters. They just sort of decide to start telling me their stories. So, my books almost always start out as “pantsing” (love that term!), but at some point I want to world-build or figure out where the story ends, so then I need to plan, which involves researching the world if I’m building, sometimes drawing maps, Google-Earthing the place I’m setting, visiting my friend Ray to handle his guns, research dairy cows and airplanes, … and all that jazz.

    Although writing a novel in a month sounds like intriguing challenge, I know the plot holes and editing errors would bug me until I was able to thoroughly edit the work, and I’d probably get hung up in the latter chapters by the realization that I wanted to story to end at Point B when earlier chapters were originally aimed at Point A. At that point I’d be unable to present my work to the public because I would feel I hadn’t given quality to my own standard.

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