Planning vs. Pantsing: The NaNoWriMo Conundrum

Photo Credit: Stuart Miles

For me, the beginning of writing a novel seems to go one of two ways: I’m completely stuck and unsure of where to start, or the prose seems to spill out onto the page out of nowhere.

I’ve found that when I plan and outline like crazy, I always fall into the first camp. All those ideas seemed so clear in my head, but once I start writing the novel, I actually have to get them down in a creative and captivating fashion. The pressure to get the story “right” can be overwhelming. There’s also a chance that all the planning has taken the fun out of discovering my story as I write it.

On the other hand, pantsing it from the start has its own drawbacks. Once the initial excitement wears off, I end up doing a lot more work while writing because I have to stop and think about every character I introduce and every plot point I add. There’s generally a lot more structural work that needs to be done when editing as well.

The projects I plan out in advance are always the ones that leave me stuck when I start, and the ones I don’t plan pour onto the page, but only at first. This year, for my NaNoWriMo novel, I’m going to try a combination of outlining and spontaneity. Planning the plot from beginning to end makes me feel more constrained creatively, while not planning at all leaves me overwhelmed with decision-making when I should be writing.

So, if you’re not sure whether to plan or pants, I recommend a combination of the two. This month, I’ll be working on some character sketches and loose outlines while making my way through Chris Baty’s No Plot No Problem. I’m not sure how it’ll work out for my NaNoWriMo novel this year, but I’ll keep you updated.

Are you a planner or a pantser? What process works best for you?


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6 replies to “Planning vs. Pantsing: The NaNoWriMo Conundrum”

  1. […] Planning vs. Pantsing: The NaNoWriMo Writing Conundrum by Alana […]

  2. Amber West says:

    I’m working on occasionally throwing some pants on. NaNo makes me feel like I really should – but I have to admit that as it gets closer, I still haven’t mapped out a single thing.

    Now, if daydreaming counts as planning, then I at least have something on. Maybe daisy dukes. Or those awful shorts where the pockets are longer than the shorts.

    1. Alana says:Author

      Daydreaming definitely counts. I am worried about going in without any plan because I really do want to finish, and there’s a good chance I won’t if I don’t have anything mapped out. There’s still a little time left.

  3. Sara says:

    I have been slightly panicking about the fact that my attempt to plan has been feeble and boring – I keep on feeling that I’ll get to day one and just have nothing to write because there is no plan. So now much more reassured by the idea that pantsing it might bring out my more creative side!

    1. Alana says:Author

      I do think it’s good to have a loose outline so there’s less of a chance of getting stuck along the way, but a lot of people pants it completely and finish, and there definitely are advantages to that too. Good luck, and thanks for stopping by!

  4. […] Planning vs. Pantsing: The NaNoWriMo Writing Conundrum by Alana […]

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