Nanowrimo: Planning vs Pantsing

Nanowrimo Planning Vs Pantsing

Happy Halloween!

Tomorrow is the first day of Nanowrimo, and I’m already questioning my decision to participate. It’s going to be a lot of work, but hopefully I can push myself through it until the end!

With less than 24 hours until the challenge begins, I want to address one of the big questions when it comes to Nanowrimo, or novel writing in general: are you a planner, or are you a pantser?

If you are a planner, you’re probably finished with your outline already and just waiting to turn it into a story, and if you’re a pantser, you probably have an idea and a whole lot of build-up creativity ready for next month. In just about every aspect of life, I am a planner, and my first attempt at National Novel Writing Month will be no different.

When I started my first novel this summer (and quit at about 25,000 words, realizing it was going nowhere), I went in with a very rough outline, and about a million unresolved plot holes waiting for me. Needless to say, this was a disaster; however, at that time I knew that planning would have stalled the project forever, and if I wanted to get something written I just had to go for it.

This time around, I went with a different strategy and made a detailed outline, and I’m already glad I did. I feel as though I know my characters better, and it was almost like their goals and desires propelled the plot along on its own as I outlined. That’s not to say it’s perfect, there are still a few blaring holes I have yet to fill, but I’m satisfied that this will keep me on track during the next 30 days.

To make my outline, I strayed from my usual paper-and-pencil method and opted for a spreadsheet, which I made using Google Sheets (I use Google Docs for everything, I am horrible at remembering to save files). I made two separate sheets: one for characters and one for the outline.

For the characters, I mixed and matched questions from a few different “character questionnaires” I found online, and answered the questions which I felt were relevent for each character. For my outline, I made a column for each of the following: chapter/scene number, description of scene, time/date, setting, characters involved, subplots relevant, and total word count per scene (to be filled out as I write). I am not completely finished with the outline, but hopefully I can squeeze the rest in tonight before November starts and it’s time to begin writing.

For me, planning is a great way to keep my focus and stay on track with my goals, because it stops my story from reaching a dead-end. I know many people swear by pantsing, and if you are one of them I would love to hear how you keep your ideas organized! Regardless of which category you fall under, I wish you a happy Nanowrimo and the best of luck on whatever project you choose to pursue.

I can’t wait to hear everyone’s Nanowrimo updates throughout the month and I’ll try my best to keep blogging; until then, happy writing!


48 thoughts on “Nanowrimo: Planning vs Pantsing

  1. I am a planner too! I only decided I wanted to do NaNo this year two days ago so my plan is a little haphazard and quickly put together. This is also my first year and I am super excited!
    Hope yours goes well!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I hate planning, it kills my creativity. My big NOVEL OF THE 21st CENTURY hit a wall after 20 years in the making and with two pre/sequels already in the making. But up to that point I had a lot of fun and stress and action with my characters. I love to surprise myself, I see the movie playing in my head and have more than one jumpscare and tragical incident that made me myself sick and sad. Didn’t wanna see one of my fave chars dying so soon and so stupidly … but if the drama demands it, so be it. 😮

    And don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with the manuscript, no illogicalities, no plotholes. It was just that in my head I already was 2 or 3 books ahead and couldn’t keep up with the writng. And just filling out what I had already written in my mind was just too boring for me.

    If you need to know, I’m a pantster.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s interesting, because I’m the complete opposite! I like how you said you can follow the “movie in your head,” because for me that just causes stress to take over and I end up giving up! Thanks for sharing your writing method, it’s nice to hear other perspectives!


  3. I’m somewhere in between a pantser and a planner. As a kid, I planned obsessively, but in college I experimented with free writing a lot. This year will hopefully be the first year I successfully complete NaNoWriMo (I once got to the half-way point and lost all motivation, hated my story, felt that it was going nowhere; the age old story). So, good luck to you, and I’ll see you at the finish line!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Pingback: NaNoWriMo Starts Today! – Thar She Blows!

  5. I’m usually somewhere in between myself but somewhere closer to that planster. This year, however, I seem to be flying closer to “the seat of my pants”. lol I am happy to find so many other people with like minds though and am so interested to so how their novels will turn up. Happy Nanoing everyon. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m a seat of the pants writer most of the time, I have done a small amount of prep (if you call a half page nine bubble mindmap prep?) and have a general idea for the story, but my plan is generally to throw the characters into the world and put obstacles in their way as their wend their way to a goal. I’ve not written anything this long before mind you, it’s as much an exercise in just forcing myself to produce content come what may.
    Good luck with your NaNoWriMo!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s still a good way to go about it, as much as I outline I still change things and add new obstacles along the way, but as long as there are words on the page I’m happy! Good luck on your novel!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I always thought that I was a pantser until I realised I am unable to write without an outline that I can rely on. However, I am not 100% planner, I am more of a plantser, with 80% planner and 20% pantser. I let my creativity flow “without control” only when I am currently writing, inside the boundaries I previously created with my outline 😂

    Oh the weird ways a writer can in fact create…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I didn’t plan my project last year, and 2/3rds the way in I got stuck. After NaNo I went back to the start to try and figure out my plot, and discovered what I’d written needed a lot of editing! I enjoy pantsing, but it didn’t work out well for me. This year I decided to plan, and so far it’s going really well 🙂
    Good luck with your project!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hey. I have a vague plan going in. There are some tentpoles and set pieces I think I’ll get to and an ending. In the middle – lots of “I’m not sure” which is what keeps things fresh. I’m also posting my work daily on my blog, which should be interesting. There are comedy aspects and jokes really need to be edited if you want to set them up properly. Meh. We’ll see how it goes. Just keep writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. In the past I’ve had only a very vague idea where I wanted to go and my most successful years were more sets of short stories than a novel.

    this year I’ve spent more time thinking about the overall story arc and world I’m wanting to construct for the tale and I have a rough outline of major points that will need to get hit to get to the end I’m hoping to reach. (the story is going to be one in a series I think)

    so I would consider myself more of a “plantser” than either one or the other, I’m not completely winging it nor do I have a full story outline. based on my writing so far this seems to be working well for this project.
    that said I’m hitting a mild roadblock at the moment. I know where I need to go but I’m uncertain how to get to the next milestone. but at 10k already I’ve got some flex to figure things out. I may just jump ahead a bit and worry about backfilling the missing segment later when inspiration strikes.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m usually a pantser. For this year though, I’m doing a colab, and the person I’m doing it with is a planner, so we went into November with a full page of character info and an outline for the draft. I’m really glad that I went along with it because now we can get to writing and leave the small details we haven’t figured out to fate!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I think I am neither or both. And that is probably why I have never gotten past the conceptualizing before. This will be my first time doing NaNo and I have been using a concept I had worked out some of the characters and storyline but not thoroughly planned out.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Greetings! I enjoyed reading this. I am a planned pantser, a little bit of a jumper/ snowflake method. I think I wrote about this, too. Anyways, hope November treats you well, and remember the most important part, the joy of writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m kind of a hardcore planner. Save for my first nanowrimo (I only got back into writing January of that year), I’ve never written a NaNoWriMo book that I hadn’t been planning on some level for more than a year. Last year’s in particular, I wrote the last book in a series I had been writing for 4 years at that point, and I had a general idea for the ending ever since the day I started writing said series. This year, I’m writing a story that I first came up with at least 8 years ago. I tried writing it back then, but felt that I wasn’t ready. At just over 60,000 words as of tonight, I feel ready now.

    Finished my chapter by chapter planning for this book as far back as late September.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I thought I was a planner, having 3+ years of notes I planned to put to page day-by-day should be an easy task. Then as November wears on, I’m going over my notes and finding my previous self was *really* terrible at organizing his thoughts. I’m going to go with Pantser for myself. (I hadn’t heard that term before, I’m definitely going to use it from now on =) )

    Liked by 1 person

  16. In truth, I’m a plantzer. 🙂 I go in with the idea (I’m going to pick on Christopher, since he’s my main character in Stealing Myself From Shadows) “Christopher is going to want this, others characters will want something else, conflict will happen” and start writing. At which point, it’s a surprise to me as much as anyone. Not so much this NaNo, since I’m a rebel doing revisions this year. Still my characters manage to surprise me from time to time…

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I hate pantsing NaNoWriMo – which is why I’ve decided to do it this year. And I’ve got to say I am loving it overall! My characters keep going in different directions than I intended, it makes me constantly think about the next part of the story and ideas of where it can go. Although the huge downside is that I am over halfway and still have absolutely no idea how the story is going to end!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love the aspect that your story can surprise you along the way, but for me I end up losing my motivation when I don’t have a set plan. I hope pantsing is working well for you, good luck!


  18. I’ve always been a pantser, but as more and more time goes by and more and more projects stall I find myself planning more and more bits and pieces.
    I have a relatively new and fragile story concept in the works and am definitely contemplating the idea of planning the whole thing out first!
    Never thought I’d see the day, haha

    Liked by 1 person

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