plantsing

Guys, it’s less than 10 days until the routine-wrecking madness of NaNoWriMo begins. It’ll be a time of what Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo, calls exuberant imperfection. Packs of industrious writers will descend on coffee shops and libraries, furiously banging out words and more words in social silence. In less than 10 days, we’ll begin the slog towards 50,000 words. This last week or so is a good time to go and find your writing tribe – meet kindred spirits on the NaNo forums, join servers on Discord – the people who can keep you accountable and hopefully motivated throughout the month. People to commiserate with and vent to and bounce ideas off of. It can help if they share your NaNo approach, but it’s not necessary.

As I’ve touched on previously, people who participate in NaNoWriMo fall into two main camps.

planner vs pantser

from the NaNoPrep website

The solid planners are people who tend to outline, outline, outline before November 1st. They start the month with a solid idea of what their story is going to look like and who their characters are. Frequently, their worlds are largely built and their research is mostly done. Many fully believe in the index card method of writing out each scene on a card for easy rearranging and shuffling. All that’s left come Nov is to put the words to each scene.

The opposite camp are the pantsers (as in fly by the seat of your pants). On November 1st, they just start writing, often with no clear idea where their story is going or what their characters will do. The most extreme of the pantsers don’t even come up with a vague idea. They will just sit down at the keys and let the words take them where they will.

But although the question you’ll be asked is “Are you a planner or a pantser?”, don’t let the framing fool you. There’s a totally acceptable third camp that combines the best of both worlds, the camp of plantsing.

I fall solidly into this camp. I’ll have a loose outline of the big story beats that need to happen, and I’ll pants my way between them. I like this method because my outline is flexible and vague and I don’t hold it too closely, giving me the option to change it as things evolve. I’ve met my characters, though I don’t know them too well yet. I don’t know how they’re going to go from one beat to the next, so there are still plenty of discovery writing surprises. And come November 1st, I won’t have to sit down in front of a paralyzing blank screen with no idea of what to write.

Which camp do you fall into?

2 thoughts on “plantsing

  1. I’m a recovering pantser. I always seem to blame my horribly jumbled first drafts on the writing style, so I’m usually trying to force myself into plotter mode. I’ve never succeeded, so I don’t actually know if it works, but I dream of a cleaner draft.

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    • There’s definitely something about pantsing that I like – primarily, the feeling of discovery you get (I had no idea my protag was going to do that!). But I’ve embraced the idea of plantsing because I need a little guidance from beat to beat. As for a jumbled first draft, I’ve just gotten to the point where I accept that my first draft WILL be horribly jumbled, and it should since I’m just word vomiting onto the page. The cleaner drafts come later. 😀

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