Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Planner vs. Pantser - why it doesn't matter

If you've been reading my blog, having my forum posts inflicted upon you or (surely not) reading my mind, you'll know I spend a lot of time thinking about the whole Planner vs. Pantser issue.

'Planners' are people who have a plan and usually an outline when they start writing a story. 'Pantsers' are people who have no idea what they're doing or where they're going and like it that way. You hear a lot about whether one or the other is better and every writing blog seems to be written by someone who is convinced that they alone follow one method while the rest of the writing world embraces the other. Okay, maybe I'm being too hard on writing blogs, but as the title of this post says, it doesn't matter which you are anyway.

Regardless of planning or otherwise, there are two kinds of writer:
  1. People who can't finish a story
  2. People who CAN can finish a story
Go and pick up the nearest novel. Unless you know the writer personally, I doubt you can tell whether the author was a Planner, Pantser or acted the whole thing out with their collection of rainbow unicorns and had their little brother or sister transcribe the recording. Maybe they strode out into a moon-drenched field and sacrificed a dozen muses to the God of Awesomeness and had the first draft fall complete at their feet. Maybe they wrote one good draft and then just edited it into shape. Maybe they wrote a dozen drafts and the story you're reading is barely recognisable as the one from the first draft. The point is, once you  get the finished product you can't tell how it was created.

Even if you've got some poor author's synopsis sitting on your desk, you don't know how they created that. Did they just write the synopsis one day? Did they write half or all of the story and then consolidate what they knew into that single page you see? Did they write tens of thousands of words of preparatory material before starting the synopsis? Did they start the story ten years ago or ten minutes ago? That piece of paper can't tell you. It doesn't matter - creative energy is creative energy regardless of how the writer taps into it.

The only real way to divide writers is by those who finish their stories and those who don't. That's the only thing you can tell for sure about the novel you picked up a moment ago. the person who wrote it knew how to finish a story.

That's all very nice, but now what?

Now comes the awesome bit.

Everyone has a plan, whether they realise it or not. Or at least, if you want to finish your story you'd better have a plan. Maybe it's a plan of your plot. Maybe it's a plan to write 3,000 words a day and finish the damn thing by the end of the month. Those are both plans and they're both going to get you to the goal of a finished story.

So, no matter how you choose to create your story, go and finish the damn thing!


  1. Thank you for saying this out loud! I have always been a pantser but when I go looking for "expert advice" on improving my writing, most of what I stumble upon is for planners. I went as far as starting to learn how to plan out my novel and "force" myself into planning. It's done nothing but slow down my writing! Totally agree with your post -- it's not whether or not you're a planner or a pantser, it's whether or not you finish!

  2. I'm a pantzer. That's french for pantser. Don't fence me in.