Terminology: Planner vs Pantser

Planner and Pantser were terms introduced to me while participating in NaNoWriMo. They are two approaches to first draft story writing.

Why Planner and Pantser? Planners are writers who plan their novels, and Pantsers write their stories by the seat of their pants.

Detailed outlines are the purview of Planners, typically completed before a single word of the actual story is set onto page. That doesn’t mean that Pantsers can’t use outlines, either before or during their writing process, but they are more like guidelines than a strict road map.

Pantsers often let their characters lead the story, and every day they sit down to write brings surprises. Planners also have the ability to be surprised by their characters or twists in their stories, but likely not on a daily basis.

More important than either of those terms or approaches to writing is the idea that telling a story is a journey. Declaring yourself a Pantser doesn’t mean that you can’t plan anything at all, and being a Planner shouldn’t force you to resist letting your muse take the story in a direction you hadn’t anticipated.

Finishing a first draft is no small feat, and the journey that gets you there is an intimately personal experience. Whether you feel more like a Planner or a Pantser, or if that changes depending on the mood of the day, the most important thing is that you write.

While you’re pondering which kind of first drafter you are, here’s a few things that every writer can enjoy:

  • Character Biographies (everything from eye-color to their favorite band)
  • “Dream Casting”  (what celebrity would you cast to play your characters)
  • Soundtracks (what songs would go with scenes in your story)
  • Character Interviews (answering interview questions from the POV of your MC – or villain!)

What kind of writer are you? Have any advice for your past self? Please share, the comments are always open.

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