Whether or not you’re a planner or a pantser is a contentious issue among writers (for the love of god, Grammarly, accept that pantser is a word).
Well. We all write differently in a way that suits us. Don’t listen to all that write everyday bullshit. Find out what works for you. If you can only write upside down on Tuesdays. If the only ‘office’ space available to you is on your knee on the sofa, who cares? Don’t wait for a fancy laptop/pen/notebook. A biro and the back of an envelope is literally all you need.
However, the way we plan, broadly falls into two categories and most of us are definitely in one and find the other one completely baffling/alien/imaginary.
That is not to say that you can’t switch sides – I did.
There are also degrees of planning and pantsing – some people don’t put pen to paper until they have a map – nay, an atlas, thirty characters plus backstories and complete wardrobes and a scene by scene list of events.
Those at the other end of the…pantsing scale (?) open a notebook (or turn over an envelope) and go hell for leather until they have 100,000 words down.
I am neither of these people.
I used to be an absolute pantser, but my stories were, er, shit. There’d be a great first chapter and then a load of hesitant, meandering waffle. Also I could never remember anyone’s name and had one dude with three names, two jobs and any number of nationalities.
I was also reluctant to do any kind of research because er, I couldn’t be arsed. Oh, and because I hadn’t a clue where my story was going, what was I meant to research?
To be honest, I worried that if I needed to plan my story and, you know, THINK about what I need to write, I wasn’t a talented enough writer. As if other writers are born with a complete story in their head and all they have to do is type it out.
APPARENTLY IT’S HARD FOR EVERYONE.
The danger of becoming too plan-y is that I find myself increasingly nervous about actually starting. I end up obsessing about maps that I don’t know how to draw and can’t decide whether a character should have a tragic back story or is that too ‘done’ and yada yada yada.
So now I scratch out a basic plot, write a first draft, then go back and look at stuff I need to research. Also try and draw a map OR do what G.R.R. Martin did and flip Ireland upside down – hey presto, there’s Westeros! That, sir, is GENIUS.
As you can tell, I’m still a bit stuck map-wise. Maybe at the end of draft 2 (loving called the second draft of the first draft, since I’ve changed 85% of the story.
Please pantsers, get in touch.
How do you do it? Do you have a vague idea for the ending, or do angels just whisper sentences in your ear and you write them down?
Also, whilst I’m here asking questions and we’re barely at 500 words, I have some other random questions that plaguing me. These are not blog related but I feel that having them clomping round my head is dulling my creative spark.
1 – How long would I last in Gilead without being hung on the wall?
Not long, I don’t think. I’m not good at keeping my mouth shut, not very survival-savvy and my white hat thing would have been covered in grubby fingermarks immediately.
2 – Is The Rock tired all the time?
If not, how come? He’s always in the gym or in a meeting or on a film set and only gets like five hours sleep a night. Apparently that’s super bad for you, but he looks fine. I exercise a medium amount (not to be thin or ripped; I just eat a lot) and get around 8 hours sleep a night and am tired. It’s embarrassing. Also he has kids! Apparently they’re quite tiring!
3 – Does Monty Don do all his own gardening or does he hire help?
Like, is it a 9-5 job? Also, can I have a map of Long Meadow so I can get a sense of how big it is please. (btw, if you’re in the UK and you don’t watch Gardener’s World, I urge you to. Preferably with wine. It’s like a massage for your soul).
4 – Am I over extending this blog post pointlessly to avoid having to work on my novel?
So, I think we’ll end here, before this descends into farce.
So, planners – you’re fine. Go about your business. WE GOOD.
Pantsers – how the hell do you do it? Let me know.
And I suppose there MUST be people who are both planners or pantsers – that write one novel on the fly and another after creating an intricate, colour coded filing system comprising every possible detail of plot, theme, characters and notes for a possible sequel. Get in touch if that’s you! I’d love to meet you and write ‘demon’ on your forehead in permanent marker!