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Why I’m a Planner, Not a Pantser

Yesterday I wrote about completing the initial draft of the novel, and being unhappy with both the process and the result. I’m a planner, not a pantser, but I was trying to take a more freewheeling approach with this book. It was not fun, and the book is not good. Today I want to take a look at why, as a writer, flying by seat of my pants doesn’t work for me.

What’s the Plan?

When I have an outline, I always know what remains to be done. I can look at my notes and see, for example, that the scene where my main character meets with her father needs to be written. It takes place in a coffee shop, because they aren’t close, and I know what needs to happen within the scene. I am more likely to get through the required daily word count if the scene takes more words than I need to write today, and am also more likely to keep writing into the next scene if they connect and I know where the plot is taking me.

In addition to that, I’ve known for several days that this scene is coming up. I’ve had time to think about it, to pre-write some of it in my head. When I sit down to write it I know what things look like, and some of the key dialogue has been working itself out in my head. I’m not going into a writing session cold.

Without an outline, however, I only need to make word count. To achieve that, I can make up almost anything. It can be fun, because the story can go off in unexpected directions. You can discover things about your setting. You may learn new things about your characters. This is why pantsers enjoy being pantsers.

I’m a Planner, Not a Pantser

That doesn’t always serve the story, though. It doesn’t feel like progress has been made, at least to me. All I’m doing is throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks. When you don’t know where you’re going, anywhere you end up is good enough. It’s far too sloppy and squishy for me. As I mentioned yesterday, the result is a manuscript that requires so much cleanup and rewriting. I’m basically just starting over from scratch for the next draft.

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