Planning vs. Pantsing

It’s the infinite NaNoWriMo question. I’ve tried both, and would say I’ve had considerably more success pantsing, but that planning is easier. Make sense? About as much sense as the process of making things up and writing things down can, I suppose. Here’s my pro-con list, in which each method’s pro has its con in the opposing method’s pro. Eh.

PANTSING:

  • No prep work. Perfect for the lazy/disorganised.
  • No restrictions. Want to flip from technobabble to dinosaurs? No problem! Gritty inner-city modern-slice-of-life to Tudor period drama? Go for it! (Already I am constructing both of these stories in my mind.)
  • The imagination is completely free! It’s so much easier to be creative when you have no walls and boundaries.
  • Writers’ block? Write something, anything at all! You can always work out how it makes sense with your story later, and who knows where that’ll take it?

PLANNING:

  • Lots of prep work. Great for when you want to get going early, or if you have so many ideas you’re scared of forgetting something.
  • Enough restrictions for the brain to function properly. You’ve got a great, linear story idea? It probably needs, shock horror, a storyline. Yes, you might not know whodunnit yet, but you’ll want a vague idea of how you – and the reader – is going to find out.
  • The imagination gets to do the cream of its work – the colouring in, if you like, of creativity. It’s so much easier to be specific when you have a nice neat outline.
  • Writers’ block? No problem! You can just pick up the next neat bit of outline and get going on that, with no worries that it won’t work, because you already have a map for where you’re going and what you’re doing!

So, even with this tiny, four-point list you can see that it’s all much of a muchness, and that the main thing is, still, just putting one word after another. My best advice, if you’re not sure which you are, or if you’re one and are rapidly, at this end of Week 1 phase of NaNoWriMo wishing you were the other, why not try a tiny switch? If you’ve been pantsing up until now, take precisely two minutes to construct yourself an outline. Then confine yourself to that for exactly one day’s writing and see how it goes. If you’ve had a fine plan and you’ve run out out at 10,001 words, or you’re bored of everything about it and wish your characters would jump off a cliff/form a knitting circle/time travel already, hide your outlines and character assumptions from yourself for the day and write a sidebar, a prequel, a parallel universe, hey, why not stick them in space for a minute and see what happens?

It’s not original advice, but then, there really is no original advice when it comes to writing, and if you’re not one of the wonderfully inspiring/soul-crushing types who are powering into the 20ks and beyond already and tweeting gleefully about it, you might well be procrastinating exactly as much as I am and trawling the blogs of fellow NaNoers looking to be told once more things you already know in order to simply keep going. So, I’m just doing my bit for the community here, k?

Happy NaNo; here’s to Week 2!

(P.S. full disclosure: I’m well behind at only 7,676 words. But I’ve got plenty of time to catch up today, and no fear for it.)

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