Ah, the most fierce writerly debate out there. To plan or to pants your way through a book.
Why it’s good to be a planner or a plotter
- Outlines give you the ability to know exactly where you’re going with your story
- You’re less likely to get side tracked, stay on track (especially if you’re working on a deadline)
- No unnecessary plot tangents that you would ultimately discover later on during revision.
Why it’s good to be a pantser
- (Quick definition for those of you who don’t know: this means, writing a book by the seat of your pants. Jack Karauac style. Or that dude from that horrible movie Limitless who wrote an entire book in a week or something (I forgot the details) because he was high on drugs.
- The freedom to just free write is the beautiful part of pantsing a novel.
- The ability to allow your story and your characters to develop organically, the freedom to allow them to find their own way, their own voice
Why can’t you do both?
Uh, you can. And I do. Some authors don’t like structural outlines, they feel they hinder the writing process. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I’m sure many amazing books have come by this means. Revising is where you fix the structural elements of your novel.
But sometimes, if your story is going off in five tangents, revision can be a bear.
I personally think that it’s important to free write, to discover your story, to find out where you want to go. But if all you do is free write without a direction, then you may end up getting lost, writing yourself into a corner, or writing unnecessary, unrelated chapters. This is where an outline would be helpful to organize all those scene ideas in your head.
I think both processes are important to the success of a book.
When I come up with an idea, I’ll free write for several hours, here and there, and if the story really begins to take off, then I’ll sit down and try to write out an outline in paragraph form. Sometimes, the outline isn’t even a complete outline. But this helps me focus my thoughts, the direction I want to go. This helps me to figure out what I want my themes to be.
No writer has the same process. No one formula works for every writer. I’m sure many writers use multiple formulas and processes. You have to find what works best for you.
So, which are you? A planner or a pantser?
Check out my other writerly debates