planner or pantser?

Have you heard of this? Planner or pantser? I hadn’t until recently.

I learned about the concept in my novel writing program. It seems there are two well known approaches to writing a novel.  You’re either a planner or a pantser (which sounds vaguely military to me, but it isn’t. That’s a panzer. Yes, it does sound the same.)

A planner is someone who plans out the whole novel, probably in an outline or a timeline. The planner might draw character maps, and have detailed scene notes and all kinds of diagrams. A planner has it all figured out so that when it comes down to writing, you take the bones of the outline and add word flesh to create the body of the novel. A planner is also sometimes called a plotter. No, I didn’t say plodder.

A pantser is someone who flies by the seat of their pants. They have a character and a situation and they watch the story unfold as they write. They go on a journey to unearth their discovery – like an archeologist or a paleontologist (I would have been either one in an alternate timeline!) No outline, no plotting, just pay as you go.

I realized, of course, that these approaches don’t just apply to writing. They also describe approaches to life. If you’ve read any of my stuff, you know I love me my plans (A goal without a plan is just a wish, for example.) For most things, when the unexpected difficulty occurs, I believe it is easier to adapt or modify a plan than it is to make up something from scratch. I’m Team Plan all the way. Or I thought I was…

I’m a pantser when I’m on vacation. I’m a planner for Thanksgiving dinner. I’m a pantser on my birthday. I’m a planner every workday.  Turns out I’m a pantser when it comes to writing fiction. It’s so fracking fun to watch the movie of the story play out in my head, and hopefully come out of my fingers.

You know what? I think it’s like everything else. There’s no one size fits all. It’s not plans OR pants, black OR white. Sometimes we wear pants, sometimes we just plan to wear them. Sometimes it’s both. Sometimes we’re naked.

In the meantime, remember these things: You are loved. We are all loved. Let’s all be kind. And in all things – progress, not perfection!

Love, and light in the pages,

Maggie

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