The leaves are falling, there’s a chill in the air (Actually, it’s sweaty and humid and hot, but a chill is coming…hopefully!), the days are getting shorter… I know what you’re thinking: it’s NaNoWriMo season! So, dust off your wireless keyboard, scrounge up any coffee shop gift cards with remaining balances, and choose a side. Or, have you heard the perennial debate about planning vs. pantsing?
What the heck is “Pantsing”?
Planning is obviously pretty straightforward. You take the time to design the plot framework, setting, character sketches, and theme for your November novel. Pantsing, on the other hand, is a term used to describe the process of a “pantser”: someone who works by the seat of their pants!
October will find the Planner filling out a designated notebook with chapter outlines, character questionnaires, and a list of plot twists. The Planner will be cautious, but mildly smug. The Planner’s motto is: “Come at me, November!”
The Pantser can be observed living October to its fullest. Fall festivals? Yes. Late-night Halloween Party? Sure; there are twenty-nine more days if they fall behind on November 1st… In fact, it’s difficult to tell just by watching the Pantser that anything is looming large in the coming weeks because these guys go from party to party, anyhow, celebrating the moments of life in the present. The Pantser proclaims: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may novel!”
What about creativity?
Many creatives are drawn to pantsing because of that illusion. You know the one. The “I-am-an-artist-and-will-not-be-confined” illusion. Once, I was a pantser. So, can I tell you something? It’s misery. Staring at the blinking cursor is torture. Writing down a rabbit path that has zero chance of making it into the final edit is crushing. Editing that snarl of fluctuating character motivations, slippery settings and nonsensical dialogue is discouraging — bordering on painful.
If you’re the rare (like, really rare) writer who can pull off stream-of-consciousness genius, then pantsing is for you. Or, if you have a shorter project, pantsing can be a fun discovery process. But like Tesla said about Edison, “Just a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety percent of his labor…”.
You don’t have to choose…
But what if you like the idea of the creative genius/suffering artist, yet still want to finish your word goal with enough time to throw in a load of laundry and walk the dog each evening? Happily, you can combine the two methods into a productive hybrid called…”plantsing“. (<—Don’t you love these word nerds?) This is my current NaNoWriMo policy. I plan the main framework of a novel–the who, what, when, where, and why. Then I use Rachel Aaron’s thoughtful outlining procedure. I pants the details, and can have some creative play within the framework.
Planning vs. Pantsing? Whichever approach you choose, I salute you, NaNo’s, and will be cheering you on! May the words flow like the endless chai lattes I consume during November novel season 🙂
Are you a planner, a pantser, or a plantser? How do you get ready for a long project?
***Pssst! Next week I’ll be posting a few ideas that will make your most wordy month go much more smoothly. See you then!***