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Moving From Pantser to Planner (1 Viewer)

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indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Regarding the writings of the inexperienced, I'm reminded of the movie '40 year old virgin'. The MC believed that a woman's breast would feel like a bag of sand. Nothing beats actual experience.

Yet, people can and do write about things they've never done, and more often than not it turns out well. Perhaps their success stems from a vivid imagination that can take similar experiences and apply it to their writing.

We're getting off topic here (which is my fault). I'll say again that our writing process is something unique to each of us, and believe that it evolves over time.
 

Selorian

Patron
I've tried both the panster and the planner route. I find what works best for me is what some call a planster. I outline to varying degrees using a template (my favorite right now is a hybrid version of Dan Harmon's Story Circle) and then let the story take me where it will as I work toward each point.

As for software, I began using Word's Outline Mode. Eventually I moved up to using Scrivner for both planning and writing. Recently, though, I discovered Plottr and use it exclusively for planning and only do my actual writing in Scrivner (which I can export my Plottr outline straight into).
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
I've tried both the panster and the planner route. I find what works best for me is what some call a planster. I outline to varying degrees using a template (my favorite right now is a hybrid version of Dan Harmon's Story Circle) and then let the story take me where it will as I work toward each point.

As for software, I began using Word's Outline Mode. Eventually I moved up to using Scrivner for both planning and writing. Recently, though, I discovered Plottr and use it exclusively for planning and only do my actual writing in Scrivner (which I can export my Plottr outline straight into).

Excellent point - in that there really isn't a standard procedure to follow when writing a novel. The trick may be to start with a novella, and try plotting vs pantsing, then take a look back after your project is done and review what worked and what didn't. Make that modification, and try again, then review again. Lather, rinse, repeat.
 

Selorian

Patron
Excellent point - in that there really isn't a standard procedure to follow when writing a novel. The trick may be to start with a novella, and try plotting vs pantsing, then take a look back after your project is done and review what worked and what didn't. Make that modification, and try again, then review again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Thank you. The only standard procedure is to find what works for you.
 

Cephus

Senior Member
Thank you. The only standard procedure is to find what works for you.

But, to go with something that actually works. Unfortunately, I see a lot of people who stick with a position and still don't get anything written, because they think that's what they're supposed to do. If your preferred method doesn't get you finishing projects, it's the wrong method, no matter how you feel about it.
 

Selorian

Patron
But, to go with something that actually works. Unfortunately, I see a lot of people who stick with a position and still don't get anything written, because they think that's what they're supposed to do. If your preferred method doesn't get you finishing projects, it's the wrong method, no matter how you feel about it.

So true. And just because something works on one project doesn't mean it will for the next, every one could be unique. Flexibility = something that works = finished projects. That is what matters and the only standard there should ever be.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
So true. And just because something works on one project doesn't mean it will for the next, every one could be unique. Flexibility = something that works = finished projects. That is what matters and the only standard there should ever be.
That’s why I do a review after I finish each novel, looking to see what worked, what didn’t, and what can be improved.
 

bazz cargo

Retired Supervisor
I suspect pantsers are planners who don't write much down. They keep it inside their heads and forgo the boring technical stuff.

Working title: Futurology.
Synopsis: Wakes up. Sets off for work. (Rumourmonger) Driverless pod is delayed. Instantly fired. Ejected onto rough ground. Hooks up with other outsiders. Plans heist. Goes through with heist, lots of obstacles to overcome. Initiates revolution by accident.

I have notebooks full of names and ideas and a ferment of thoughts on pointing out the pitfalls of possible futures.

That's my 'system' for what it's worth.
Good luck
BC


I'm considering a move from pantser to planner and would like examples if possible just to see what the process entails. Software advice would be welcome, but actual examples from planners of their own work would be much better.

I'm aware there are also flowcharts, but because I've never used either a flowchart or planned out a story (apart from a few notes here and there), I can't 'visualise' either, and that's what I'm hoping to get here.

So when people say 'plan' what exactly goes into those plans? What do they look like (in general).
 

Darkkin

WF Veterans
I write an idea down, that is momentum that comes out of my burning inspiration springs...I have a bad habit of hording my potential energy, spluring a bit, stashing it away until the random moment I need it, pull it out and fly away with it again. It takes me a while to finish a project because I have half a dozen balls and more, in the air at any given time.

None have outlines. This is also a direct result on my brain's operating system. I have these pieces, lets see how they fit together. Directions are for toasting marshmallows, not reading...(only when it comes to creative writing, not assembling furniture, using tools, and so on...)
 

Cephus

Senior Member
I suspect pantsers are planners who don't write much down. They keep it inside their heads and forgo the boring technical stuff.

Working title: Futurology.
Synopsis: Wakes up. Sets off for work. (Rumourmonger) Driverless pod is delayed. Instantly fired. Ejected onto rough ground. Hooks up with other outsiders. Plans heist. Goes through with heist, lots of obstacles to overcome. Initiates revolution by accident.

I have notebooks full of names and ideas and a ferment of thoughts on pointing out the pitfalls of possible futures.

That's my 'system' for what it's worth.
Good luck
BC

That's still plotting, not pantsing. I've seen plenty of panters who sit down to write without the slightest clue what they're going to do. No plot. No characters. No idea what the story is about. They just vomit from the fingertips until they produce a largely unreadable mess and then try to hammer it into something worthwhile in revision. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, so long as you eventually get somewhere, it's just that the majority of "true pantsers" that I've seen, they rarely ever find their way in the end to a satisfying novel.
 

bazz cargo

Retired Supervisor
Ummm... I am not a panster myself. Although there are times when I have gone off piste on a whim. I was only helping Mighty by sharing my methods. And I still suspect most 'pansters' have a plot in mind and not written down.
That's still plotting, not pantsing. I've seen plenty of panters who sit down to write without the slightest clue what they're going to do. No plot. No characters. No idea what the story is about. They just vomit from the fingertips until they produce a largely unreadable mess and then try to hammer it into something worthwhile in revision. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, so long as you eventually get somewhere, it's just that the majority of "true pantsers" that I've seen, they rarely ever find their way in the end to a satisfying novel.
 

Gamer_2k4

WF Veterans
My first novel was full-on planning: Creating character "files" for each major player, establishing major events and when in the story they happen, writing down themes I wanted to explore, outlining each chapter, and so on. It was so structured that I could write chapters out of order, since I knew what was going to happen and when.

My second novel still involves planning, but is much more free-form. When I started it, I only knew the two main characters, where they started, and how they would meet; I had no idea what the story was even going to be about. Gradually I broke the story into four major arcs, planning each arc more thoroughly the closer I got to it. Once I was in an arc, I'd have a very high level overview of what I wanted each chapter to cover (usually a sentence or two), and once I was in or about to write a chapter, I'd write a brief outline of the order of events and things to keep in mind going forward. Then I'd gradually write out the chapter to replace the outline, and once it was complete, I'd outline the next one and start again.

The two stories are different in style and benefited from their differences in planning, but I think I'm more satisfied with my results from the "pantsier" approach. The second story is simpler and cleaner, and has a less episodic feel to it, which I prefer.

So, the takeaway for you? Don't change your approach because you feel it's the magic key to a great story, but alter it based on what benefits you most. If you have completed works, examine them to determine what weaknesses they suffered because of a more improvisational approach. At the very least, understand WHY you're writing a full-length novel - what about your story requires more detail and development than a shorter work? Flesh that out, and use that to drive your writing.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
That's still plotting, not pantsing. I've seen plenty of panters who sit down to write without the slightest clue what they're going to do. No plot. No characters. No idea what the story is about. They just vomit from the fingertips until they produce a largely unreadable mess and then try to hammer it into something worthwhile in revision. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, so long as you eventually get somewhere, it's just that the majority of "true pantsers" that I've seen, they rarely ever find their way in the end to a satisfying novel.

For inexperienced writers, I'm sure your scenario plays out often. However, there are plenty of experienced authors who start with an idea and a few notes and see where it takes them. You probably wouldn't be so critical of the product of King or Atwood. ;-)

King: “Outlines are the last resource of bad fiction writers who wish to God they were writing masters’ theses.”

He's wrong about that, and of course he doesn't tend to write puzzle mysteries, but obviously he's not too keen on plotting for himself. LOL The sci-fi novel I wrote last spring is probably my best work, and I literally sat down without a clue of any details, just a very general idea. For the one I just finished, I had a couple of pages of paragraph notes about the story arc and specific plot points. The story arc stuck, and if you pay close attention you might recognize a couple of the plot point notes. Two important characters sprang from the page and dominated the last half of the book.

On the other hand, writing a detailed outline of the last half of the book saved my first novel from abandonment.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
For inexperienced writers, I'm sure your scenario plays out often. However, there are plenty of experienced authors who start with an idea and a few notes and see where it takes them. You probably wouldn't be so critical of the product of King or Atwood. ;-)

King: “Outlines are the last resource of bad fiction writers who wish to God they were writing masters’ theses.”

He's wrong about that, and of course he doesn't tend to write puzzle mysteries, but obviously he's not too keen on plotting for himself. LOL The sci-fi novel I wrote last spring is probably my best work, and I literally sat down without a clue of any details, just a very general idea. For the one I just finished, I had a couple of pages of paragraph notes about the story arc and specific plot points. The story arc stuck, and if you pay close attention you might recognize a couple of the plot point notes. Two important characters sprang from the page and dominated the last half of the book.

On the other hand, writing a detailed outline of the last half of the book saved my first novel from abandonment.

Back in the 80's I was a huge Stephen King fan, but even then it seemed to me that many of his novels lacked a good ending (because he was pantsing IMO). His writing is great, but on occasion the endings fall into the 'and then the Calvary rode over the hill and everyone was saved', or 'it was all a dream', or 'and then a miracle happened' category. It felt like a cheat, because he wrote a good story but couldn't figure out how to end it.
 

VRanger

Staff member
Administrator
Back in the 80's I was a huge Stephen King fan, but even then it seemed to me that many of his novels lacked a good ending (because he was pantsing IMO). His writing is great, but on occasion the endings fall into the 'and then the Calvary rode over the hill and everyone was saved', or 'it was all a dream', or 'and then a miracle happened' category. It felt like a cheat, because he wrote a good story but couldn't figure out how to end it.

The only King I ever read was The Talisman, which he wrote every other chapter of with a collaborator. Continuity suffered. LOL
 

Matchu

Senior Member
That's still plotting, not pantsing. I've seen plenty of panters who sit down to write without the slightest clue what they're going to do. No plot. No characters. No idea what the story is about. They just vomit from the fingertips until they produce a largely unreadable mess and then try to hammer it into something worthwhile in revision. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, so long as you eventually get somewhere, it's just that the majority of "true pantsers" that I've seen, they rarely ever find their way in the end to a satisfying novel.

Yes, planning provides us a more accessible craft & introduction of the colour by numbers crew. Joke, I'm only kidding, revenge. I'm sorry, I'm off..
 

Cephus

Senior Member
Back in the 80's I was a huge Stephen King fan, but even then it seemed to me that many of his novels lacked a good ending (because he was pantsing IMO). His writing is great, but on occasion the endings fall into the 'and then the Calvary rode over the hill and everyone was saved', or 'it was all a dream', or 'and then a miracle happened' category. It felt like a cheat, because he wrote a good story but couldn't figure out how to end it.

I stopped caring about King in the mid to late 80s. I was a big fan early on, then I think he lost it and lately, I've heard, he's just taken to plugging his own personal political philosophy into everything and that turns me off completely. He might be a competent writer, I don't really think he's a good writer.
 
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