Are you planner or pantser?

If you are unfamiliar with these common writer labels, planners are writers who sit and outline or plot every detail in their stories before they get too involved with their manuscripts; pantsers are the folks who write by “the seat of their pants” and often start with a blank manuscript page and just jump in to see where their preliminary ideas take them.

I am somewhat of a hybrid between the two. I often begin stories with a preliminary idea and one or two characters. I then try to think as much as possible about this story seed and I start making some beginning plans. I might make genealogies of the characters I have in mind. I might begin a rough outline. I might sketch the setting or basic plot. But after I get about three chapters in? I just wing it. I rarely look at my outline after the first few chapters (and I write long manuscripts.) The beginning plans soon turn into a huge story that I write on the fly. I love writing this way. I have just enough plans to get me started, but after that, I simply take it a scene at a time and let my mind get creative.

I find that writing this way brings me the best results. Sometimes, new characters dash onto the scene that I had no intention of creating. They end up being some of my favorites. Sometimes, an idea for a new story plot point will just tumble onto the page and I’ll be surprised by it. I love this. I love it when my own writing takes me by surprise. I’ve told my husband often enough that I really feel like stories are completed before we sit down to write them. I titled this blog “Unearthing Words”, because in my opinion, every story is really already in existence. It’s just waiting for the right author to sit down and uncover its story. I feel almost like an archaeologist discovering ancient ruins. A story is already there; I’m just responsible for unearthing its words one page at a time.

What about you? Are you a pantser, a planner, or a bit of both? I’d love to hear about your own writing processes! Share in the comments section!

Thanks for stopping by!



The Planner // Pantser Hybrid
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  • OK, I’ve never written anything of the length you are dealing with. Maybe technical documents of 30 pages or so.

    For something short, I just wing it. A dozen paragraphs may take some time to type, but it’s much like telling someone a story out loud. You just follow along with it as you would tell it.

    However, for anything that’s pages and pages, I find I work best by constructing an outline of what I want to say. I don’t always follow the outline, and it changes as I write. Having the outline gives me a framework to put words to. It allows me to say something without wondering off course and sounding goofy.

    For something book-length, though, I would assume I would need supporting documentation — spreadsheets or lists of names or some such just to keep from getting confused. There’s a limit to what I can keep in my head.

    If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality profile, I bet a lot of people would be divided on iNuitive versus Sensors. Sensors can deal with hundreds of disparate bits of information. However, iNtuitives, like myself, need a structure, an understanding upon which to place new information. Sensors may be more likely to be pantsers, iNtuitives more likely planners.

    • Ahhh, very interesting thoughts, Bill! Never heard of this Myers-Briggs personality profile, thing, but I’ll bet you’re right about the similarities to planners and pantsers.

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