Planner vs Pantser

National Novel Writing Month is underway. In acronym parlance, that’s NaNoWriMo.   

The resources to motivate writers to bunker down and churn out 50,000 words recognise two distinct camps for approaching the writing process:  planners and pantsers.

It’s rigorous preparation and planning versus hardcore fly by the seat of your pants spontaneity.

A lovely writerly lady encouraged me to participate this year, so we could spur each other on. Alas, I am cheering her from the sidelines.  

I’ve got Words on a Page commitments, little time and no clear idea to even think about beginning a novel. How can I stare at a blank page and just start writing? Yes, these excuses indicate that I lean towards Team Planner.

It’s true. I could never write a whole piece in one hit from the first letter to the last full stop. For me, it’s ideas jotted down to form a structure and then a constant game of paragraph jigsaw.  For my uni thesis I had whole chapters chopped up and blu-tacked onto my wall for serious structure shuffle.

Words on a Page

I wonder if people who tell other people’s stories for a living are predisposed towards a planning method.

In copywriting there’s a bucket load of preparation, thinking, research and strategy that underpin the words we deliver. Also, a good briefing process means we have client parameters that don’t constrain novelists.

Maybe it’s just my bureaucratic background that makes me groan at the thought of planner proclivities. It sounds so dull. I wish I was a more spontaneous writer.

Thankfully, planning and creativity are not mutually exclusive. It’s not how you get yourself to write, but what you write.

And the kernel of that is going to be the idea.

Ideas brew to germinate (though I’d like to consider that a form of planning). But they cannot be coaxed out, so there’s always aspects of spontaneity. Cheeky ideas wake me with clarity at 4am, compelling me to get up and catch them before they run away.  

I guess there’s no right or wrong way to approach the writing process. It’s about trying different things, being reflective enough to understand how you tick and to be aware of what you need to get quality writing done.  

For some people that might just mean hiring a Bespoke Wordsmith to tell your story and tout your wares.