Preptober 2021 | To plot or to pants?

There are many articles out there about how to plan, from a skeleton draft to the Snowflake method. But an extra question you have to ask yourself, especially when taking on NaNoWriMo, is how much to plan as we roll towards the end of the month.

There are, broadly, three types of planner: a plotter; a pantser; and a plantser.

Um, what?

A plotter is someone who outlines, in varying degrees of detail, their entire book. Some people write drafts of 5,000 words, and some just write a couple of sentences for each chapter, but either way, a plotter will, well, plot.

A pantser, on the other hand, is someone who flies by the seat of their pants! They may have semblance of an idea, or a character, setting, or story, but won’t have done much planning at all. On November 1st, they’ll start their first draft with no idea of where they’ll end up!

And a plantser is between both! A plantser is a real mix: some will write a plot outline but not the ending; some will plan characters in detail, but have no plot, or vice versa; some will spend hours writing notes in no particular order; some will plot in detail, and then throw it out the window on Day 3. It really depends!

I definitely fall into the “plantser” realm, as I would imagine many writers do, perhaps even yourself. Whilst I will write a basic outline, I am not concerned about deviating from my original plan, especially as I get to know my characters more along the way.

But how much should I plan? How should I choose?!

Ultimately, learning your writing style will come with time, self-awareness, and reflection. It may be good practice to try writing two short stories: one entirely planned, one entirely off the cuff, and seeing which one you prefer. Maybe you like some aspects of one, and some aspects of the other!

There are pros and cons to both plotting and pantsing. Plotting pros include being prepared for the month ahead, and knowing your book inside out. It can help you stop falling into ruts because you know what’s coming, and you can work out any plot holes before you’ve written 10,000 words and found you’ve written yourself into a hole!

However, some cons of plotting include the restriction, boredom, and feeling like you can’t, perhaps, be creative (though some plotters may disagree!). If you change one thing in your outline, you have to entirely rewrite it, which is a pain. Whilst a pro of this method is that you know what’s coming, a con is that you know what’s coming – and can therefore be boring! You may not be able to stretch your wings in the same way as if it was made up along the journey.

Pantsing has pros and cons, too. Pros include being incredibly creative, and being able to change whatever you want, when you want. You also have complete flexibility. Want to introduce dragons? Totally introduce dragons! However, complete pantsing makes it very easy to fall into plot holes, and not having even a basic outline can make it difficult to climb out of these.

After many years of trial and error, I have determined I am a plantser, and will be going into NaNoWriMo with a bit of a plan, some developed characters, probably a vague idea about an ending, and a lot of excitement about what’s going to come!

Remember, too, you can add to your plan during the writing of the book. Every so often, especially when I feel myself becoming stagnant or worried about a plot hole, I’ll pause and add to my plan in more detail. Writing is whatever you want it to be!

Are you a plotter, pantser, or plantser? I’d love to know in the comments! 🙂

Until next time,

Hannah

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