Exchanging Pantsing for Planning

Or at least for once I am.

Those of you who are confused obviously have never participated in NaNoWriMo. Go ahead and click on that link so I don’t have to take a whole paragraph to explain it to you and can move on to the whole “pantsing” and “planning” explanation instead.

Now, any readers who have traumatizing memories from public school of a bully or even a pranking friend coming up from behind to pull their pants down in front of their crush/entire class/entire school, etc., no worries, this is not the type of pantsing I’m talking about.

“Pantsing” in this case refers to the phrase “by the seat of their pants”, which refers to people (in this case writers) who don’t plan ahead but handle everything as it happens and hope that all will turn out right in the end. Sometimes it does, but all too often it doesn’t.

This is the type of writer that I am. I get an idea for a great story; start imagining characters, love interests, villains, a new world to play in, even some very specific scenes to include; then I start furiously writing until…I lose interest and get caught up in something else.

And let me be perfectly honest. I lose interest usually because I get stuck somewhere between point C in the story and point D and I don’t know how to get to point D from where I have currently written myself. This is why I haven’t finished many books to go querying agents with willy nilly. This is also the way I wrote the majority of my essays and papers in college, and usually the night before. (Can we guess what that BS in my college degree really stands for?)

The opposite of the panster, of course, is the planner, and that kind of writer is self explanatory. And I honestly envy planners because I think they must never ever get stuck and their books get written in a matter of days and then they can edit a little and they have a beautiful, perfectly formed story ready for an agent to fall in love with and a publisher to buy and millions of fans who will someday wonder how they ever functioned without this book in their lives.

Go ahead. Call me delusional. I understand perfectly.

I really should have learned this lesson back in college. The few times I actually took the time to write my paper early, really think it out, and even accept the offer for the professor to look it over beforehand and give me some pointers, earned me some of the best grades I ever received for an essay. You’d think I’d make the correlation and change my ways.

Nope.  I have to do it the hard way.

When I started preparing to write Hunter, Hunted for the first NaNoWriMo I ever participated in, I didn’t outline the story. But I did do some brainstorming, which is more than I’d ever prepared before, and I saw as I wrote throughout the month of November and then slowly completed the first draft over the next eight months (YEESH! I’m slow!) what a difference it made in my progression. Yes, I still got writer’s block, but I knew the overall plot of my story, and I always managed to get past my block and continue forward. If not for all the preparation I had put in, I might never have written “The End” on my first actually good book.

Well, now I’m finally ready to try planning for real. I’m going to outline my next novel before I start writing it! (Don’t worry, I’ll continue to edit Hunter, Hunted until it’s ready for submission.) Of course, there’s no one way to plot a novel. I’ve read many different techniques about the best way to go about it. But as I sat in front of my computer, ready to start putting my next book idea down (one of many), there was one specific outlining technique that I wanted to try.

The Snowflake Method, by Randy Ingermanson, “the Snowflake Guy”.

The link will take you to Ingermanson’s website to peruse for yourself the technique he developed.

Now, I haven’t gotten through the entire process yet. In fact, I’ve only done step one and two. But I’m eager to continue on with the next steps to see where the outlining process takes my story. Here’s what I have so far:

1)      A mermaid turned human must return to the ocean life she doesn’t remember.

2)      Tricked and captured by pirates who need her blood to complete a nefarious spell, a mermaid general is magically transformed into that which all mer-kind hate: humans. Unable to remember her former life in the water, she must now begin a new life and learn to live on the land. Nor are the pirates so easily deterred from their goal. Even without the memory of her former life she has retained her greatest talents: her fighting ability and her tactical mind. Talents that will make her a very valuable tool to the Kings’ Council searching for the answer to end the fight with the mer-folk once and for all. Will she be the cause of the end of the mer-folk, bringing them into submission to the humans, and unknowingly betraying her own people, or will she remember who she is and be forced to leave behind the human friends she gathered while living on land?

I still have a lot of questions to answer. For instance, I haven’t figured out yet what the pirates want and thus what the spell they are trying to perform is exactly. I also have only a very vague idea on what this Kings’ Council entails, as I only came up with it as I was working on step number two. And I don’t have any plot points, really, between my MC turning human and the big mer-folk – human battle you know is going to happen at the end of the book. I’m not ever sure, yet, how the Kings’ Council learns about her. Or how she learns to fight on land and prove her tactical genius.

So many questions, but hey, this is why I’m planning this time instead of just pantsing!

What about you? Are you a pantser or a planner? Are you happy with your process or are you feeling, like me, that maybe it’s time for a change?

And if you have any ideas to answer the questions my step two has brought up, feel free to share them. At this point, I could use all the help I could get.

Bonus fact about this story idea: I actually got it from listening to the Evanesence song “Swimming Home” (that’s a YouTube link to the song with lyrics for any who want to hear it themselves) from their latest album.

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1 response to Exchanging Pantsing for Planning


  1. Pingback: Pantsing and Planning 2 OR Continuing the Snowflake Method | The Words in My Head

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