The Whole Planners v Pantsers/Plungers “Debate”

Are you a Planner or Pantser? What the devil, you ask, do I mean???

There are writers who plan out their entire work — be it a novel or an essay — before they put pen to paper and start writing. Then there are writers who come up with an idea for a written work, pick up their pen and notebook and get writing. Which one are you?

I am definitely a pantser. The Muse throws idea after idea after idea at me and I jot the idea down in my “Ideas” notebook, pull out my iPad and immediately start writing. No planning, period. I don’t outline — I don’t even understand how anyone can outline something prior to writing it! One of the reasons I hate formal writing classes. The teacher always makes you write an outline and submit the outline for approval before you begin writing. Outlines cause me writer’s block. If I outline prior to writing, then my mind forces me to stick rigidly to the outline. The writing process is laborious, the words come out awkward and stiff, and I absolutely never finish writing something I have outlined first unless I have to turn it in for a grade…

Planners, well they plan. Usually extensively prior to writing one word of the manuscript. They outline. They create index cards for their sections and characters. They employ several tried and true planning techniques — Snowflake Method and other such strategies. They organize their index card sections in the order they are going to write the work. Then they start writing. After the full plan has been laid out on paper…

My way — I receive an idea and I pick up my iPad, create a new novel in Storyist for the new idea, and start writing. Pantser/Plunger extraordinaire here… Recently, however, I have started reading a book by Don Fry — Writing Your Way: Creating A Writing Process That Works For You. The entire concept of this book is to get writers out of pigeon-holing themselves into one of these two categories and guide them into creating a writing habit and style that works for them — be it by planning, plunging, or a combination of both. It is teaching me some exciting new things that I am slowly incorporating into my writing life…

One of the things I learned the other day was Mind Mapping. Not a new concept to me at all; however, the way Mr. Fry talks about it in his book made me actually create a mind map for a new project that the Muse has laid upon my heart. I loved it! It effectively dumped all of the ideas about the new WIP and what I wanted to include in the work into on roadmap for writing. And guess what??? For me, the mind map also created my sections! Now I know what sections will be in the book and in what order they need to appear. I will without doubt be using mind mapping in my writing life going forward.

Which brings me back to that infamous outlining idea. Nope — I’m still not an outliner nor do I think I ever will be. However, I do see how the mind map can be further refined into an outline for those of you who are planners… I just cannot box myself in like that. It causes me terrible stress and a stressed writer is a blocked writer. So no outlining for me, but those who have difficulty outlining may be well served by mind mapping first. This will increase my writing speed greatly because I can move my sections around on the mind map prior to writing. Much easier moving idea boxes around on the page rather than entire sections of text and then refining that section to meld with the sections before/after it in its new location…

Planner v Pantser/Plunger. There’s no one right way. We all need to learn to write in our own way as Mr. Fry teaches us in his book. I think we as writers sometimes concern ourselves a little too much with the method and process of writing. We fiddle and fidget with our process each time we pick up our pens. No wonder the writing process can seem to be tedious and too much to deal with. We keep reinventing the wheel each time we start to write! Develop your own method and stick to it. And once you’ve found your method, stop reading and researching “how” to write and get to writing! You’ve figured out how to write when you’ve figured out your own method. Don’t second guess yourself and go off to see what the “experts” have to say about the topic. You are your own expert on your writing method and style!

Thanks goes to Don Fry for releasing me from my own trappings — researching and researching and researching the best methods to write from the experts. He’s taught me to develop my own and don’t look back. Only look to the future — the future filled with a completed manuscript rather than struggling and never reaching that goal. I will continue to read Write Your Way to see if there are any other pointers that will help me in this writer’s life. However, I don’t intend to wait until I get to the end of the book before I start writing. I have already figured out that my way is the best way, whatever “my way” means…

Time to share…
Are you a planner, a panster/plunger, or both? Do you outline, and if so how does that benefit your writing? Have you already developed your own method? If so, share your method with us. Maybe we can benefit by some tip or trick you share here.

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