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  • Writer's pictureSarah Tidball

Planner or Pantser?

When it comes to writing a novel, there are two schools of thought: planning it all out in advance, or writing by the seat of your pants (also known as "pantsing"). As a writer, I've tried both approaches and have come to develop my own style which I like to call "planned pantsing". In this blog post, I'll explore the differences between planning and pantsing, and why I prefer to combine the two.


Planning Out a Novel


Planning out a novel involves creating a detailed outline before starting to write. This includes identifying the key characters, setting, plot, and themes. With a clear roadmap in mind, you can write more methodically and efficiently. This approach is particularly useful when you have a complex story that requires careful planning.


One of the main benefits of planning is that it can save time and prevent writer's block. When you have a clear idea of where your story is going, it's easier to keep writing and stay motivated. Additionally, planning can help you avoid inconsistencies in the plot or characters.


However, planning can also be restrictive and limit your creativity. When you know exactly what's going to happen, it can be hard to deviate from the outline and explore new ideas. Additionally, too much planning can make writing feel like a chore rather than an enjoyable experience.


Writing By the Seat of Your Pants


Writing by the seat of your pants involves diving into your story without a clear plan in mind. This approach is all about spontaneity and creativity. With no restrictions or guidelines, you can explore new possibilities and let the story unfold as you write.


One of the main benefits of pantsing is that it can lead to unexpected plot twists and character developments. When you're not bound by an outline, you have more freedom to experiment and take risks. This can make for a more dynamic and engaging narrative.


However, pantsing can also be risky and time-consuming. Without a clear plan in mind, it's easy to get lost in the story or introduce plot points that don't fit with the overall narrative. Additionally, too much pantsing can lead to writer's block and a lack of direction.


Planned Pantsing: Finding a Balance


As a writer, I prefer to combine both approaches and use a technique I call "planned pantsing". I start by planning out key action sequences or events in advance, but leave the details in between to be freestyled. This allows me to have a clear roadmap in mind, while still giving me the freedom to explore new ideas and let the story take its own course.


For example, when I wrote Guardians of the Four, I wrote it more freestyle, letting the story and characters guide me. However, when I wrote Fallen Star the Trinity Planets, I used more planning to make sure the story was cohesive and the plot made sense.


In conclusion, planning and pantsing both have their own benefits and drawbacks. As a writer, it's important to find a balance that works for you. For me, planned pantsing allows me to have structure while still letting my creativity flow.


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