It’s NaNoWriMo season, so chances are every writer is asking if you are a planner or pantser. And if you’re new to National Novel Writing Month, you have no clue what those words even mean.
Thank goodness you found this blog post!
It’s important to know. These terms pop up often across group forums throughout National Novel Writing Month. Your NaNoWriMo profile encourages you to choose the pantser or planner (or plantser) badge. And when you attend NaNoWriMo writing sessions, “are you a planner or pantser?” is the replacement question for “so, what do you do for a living?”
So, which one are you? Are you a planner or pantser? Let’s explore together.
What is a NaNoWriMo Planner?
It’s all in the name—planners are writers who plan their novels. Outlines are a must. Character development arcs are completed for every—I mean, every—character. All scenes are sketched out (even if roughly) on paper so that no detail gets missed.
You can also call them plotters and they wouldn’t be offended.
Some may argue that a planner spends more time preparing to write than writing the actual story. But surprises are a no-go. A planner wants to know where they’re going at all moments of the story. Characters make decisions in the story based on what planners deem best. No chances are taken, no corners cut.
What is a NaNoWriMo Pantser?
This one is harder to guess. Pantsers are writers who create stories by the seat of their pants. The thrill of writing is a blank page, be it real paper or on a computer screen. The unknown is embraced, the mysterious path boldly pursued.
Some may criticize a pantser for not taking their story seriously. But surprises are the name of the game. A pantser often lets the characters lead the story so that every writing session brings more and more surprises.
Can You Be Both?
Of course. Being a planner or pantser doesn’t mean you are part of a restrictive club. Any writer can identify with writing their story both the pantser way and the planner (or plotter) way.
Some pantsers use outlines as a guideline for their story, not a strict roadmap. Some planners leave room for surprises in certain scenes of their stories or for certain characters along the journey. And some writers enjoy having it all by creating a plan that’s full of surprises.
Is It Better to be a Planner or Pantser?
That depends on who you ask. Planners argue that pantsers often waste hours of precious writing time trying to figure out what their story is during the storytelling process. Pantsers disapprove how planners waste hours of their life jotting down pointless details of their characters that never are realized in the story.
Even successful authors can’t agree as to if being a planner or pantser is better.
The truth is, there are many ways to write a story. Just like writers have different writing styles on the page, writers can also have different methods of getting from I-want-to-write-a-story to my-story-is-finished-and-complete.
Sometimes, you have to take on the role that’s best for your story. If your story requires planning, then try being a planner. If your story needs more surprise, then try being a pantser.
It never hurts to try.