Monday, 28 May 2012

Camp NaNoWriMo day -4: pants and software

I think as a writer two things are always going to bother me.

1) The eternal "planner v pantser" debate

I want to believe Stephen Blackmoore's assertion that it doesn't matter because we're all just making sh*t up, but wherever I go I seem to read about ex-pantsers who talk about how their writerly lives are so much better now that they plan, outline and blah. Like, my life would be so much better if I only made myself an outline first and my writing would be better and...

Yeah, ranting again. Point number two isn't going to be much better, either, because it's about software.

2) Software for writers

Once again, all the software seems to be geared at planning. All these spiffy features and my broken brain just can't do anything with them. What would I put on an index card? How do I know the POV character of a scene I haven't written yet?

If FocusWriter had some way of jumping to a specific scene and had paragraph indenting, I'd love it. If yWriter had proper live word counting and a prettier editor window I could probably learn to love it. If I had a Mac so I could do things like create new scenes in scrivenings mode and not have my novel eaten every time I sneezed I'd probably love Scrivener. If Openoffice had automatic saving and live word counting I might never have left it in the first place. If Liquid Story Binder could split a draft into scenes...

So, FocusWriter with virtual sticky notes and first line indent? Q10 with background images? OO Writer with autosave? The possibilities are endless... and sadly non-existent.


There's no software that suits me exactly. There's no answer to planner versus pantser that's going to let me settle calmly into my own creative paradigm. I guess I'm just going to have to live with that and go and write something. After all, as long as I'm making stuff up it shouldn't matter.



  1. 1. Despite what the "experts" say, not everyone can outline. I tried it, and I can't connect my creativity to one. I think there are some people who could go either way -- why we get conversions from pantsers to outliners -- but there are also many people who can't change. They just don't talk about it.

    Yes, it's a messy way of writing and will require lots of revision -- but there are things you can to offset some of the problem areas as you learn more about your writing. For example, I know a lot of junk gets into my story, so after I finish I do a very fast pass over the manuscript to get rid of that junk. That way, I don't have to deal with it and get frustrated when I revise the manuscript.

    2. Have you tried Scrivener for Windows? It's ideal for pantsers because you can hop around from scene to scene. There are "index card" like things for planners, but the only thing that's required is naming the individual scenes. You can turn off the card view and never look at it.

  2. Relax. :-) If flying by the seat of your pants works for you, then do it! I know I said in another thread that I planned in a lot of detail, but what I did not mention is that as soon as I start writing, it all goes out the window! If you find that what is working for you is to spit out the whole first draft, and then go through incremental drafts, making changes in each, until you refine it to a complete product, then do that!

  3. People keep telling me to relax. This is probably the number 1 piece of writing advice I should take. Just relax and write the darn story, me.

  4. Absolutely agree that you should do what works for you.

    My point about not seeing a difference between plotters and pantsers is more about how whether you're figuring out your story while writing an outline or figuring out your story while you're writing the prose, you're still just figuring out the story.

    So the question turns into do you want to do more work on the front end or on the back end? I don't think someone's writing will be better if they outline. It make it easier for them to hit their deadlines, but all the outline is going to do is give them a plot roadmap and there are so many other things that go into making a good story than a plot.

    At the end of the day I think a writer should do what works for them. I can't use index cards, or scene maps, or conflict charts. I can't put stuff into spreadsheets. My brain leaks out my ears. Even my outlines don't look like outlines.

    If an outline's not going to work for you, and nobody's requiring you to make one for something, I say don't bother. It's just added stress.

    I don't know about you but the biggest thing that kills me is when I'm stressing about it.

    Good luck. And do what works for you.

  5. I think the gap between what I'm thinking and what actually comes out in a blog post has yet to be closed :oops:. All I meant was that no matter what creative process we use, we're making up a story. We're united in the fact that we're creating something, not divided by exactly how we're doing it.

    Of course, whether or not I can make my Inner Critic believe the rest of me when I say that is another matter entirely. The best way out of that is to go and write more, I guess. After all, I have a 75,000 word goal this month.

  6. Because of the above comment by the man who weirdly has the same initials as me...

    "Insert Cool Thing Here": Stephen Blackmoore on planning and waffles.