…that is the question. A quick Google search will yield dozens upon dozens of blogs giving contradicting advice on this. Should we plan our writing or ‘pants’ it (aka fly by the seat of your pants)? It’s a question that causes much debate.
During NaNo last year, I planned meticulously. I had multi-coloured post it notes plastered to the side of my wardrobe. I had notebooks and folders full of snippets, pictures and research. For the first week or so, I stuck to this plan rigidly.
It was stifling. Every time my characters started to make their own path, I would pull them back and make them stick to the one I had so carefully planned for them.
It won’t surprise you when I tell you that they started to misbehave. They wouldn’t do as they were told, in fact they wouldn’t do anything.
So, I scrapped my plan and let the characters have their own way. Again, disaster. They ran wild. My main character got arrested and the love interest went and impregnated the MC’s sister and her best friend – all storylines which may be interesting but that did nothing for the story I wanted to tell. These characters were out of control.
So, what did I learn?
That, for me at least, I need to find a happy medium. I need some kind of plan, but only a very basic, bare-bones one. When I’m writing I need to be able to go with the flow, but that there have to be limits.
I’m now working on the re-write of my novel, using this approach and so far, it seems to be going well.
Of course, some writers work best with well-defined plans and others may cope perfectly well completely ‘pantsing’. It’s all about finding what works best for you as an individual. It’s not necessarily something you can learn from a book, it’s something you feel.
Are you a planner or a pantser?