Friday, November 12, 2010

NaNoWriMo: Plotter vs. Pantser

I know, two NaNo posts in a row, and following Sarah's posts as well. I promise this will be my last NaNo pondering, and as of next week, I will go back to cool monsters and possible discussion of killing/torture methods. You know, the good stuff.

I am what is known as a 'pantser'. For those who might not be familiar with the terminology, a 'pantser' is someone who writes by without a plot figured out or a lot of planning. I start out with characters and a rough idea of where I'm going, and then just write. The other end of this is a 'plotter', which is a little more self-explanatory.

I have come to the conclusion that NaNo is not kind to the pantser. Because I have to ponder over my words and linger over decisions over where I should go next, just writing like a demon means I don't have that time. As a result, though it's not the only reason, my words have indeed stalled over the last few days.

Will I make the 50,000 words? Not sure. I would like to, and it certainly is possible - if I get a clear idea of where I'd like to go, I can write quickly.

But I don't want to write pure crap. I don't want to write a book that I'm going to throw out as soon as November ends, or just as bad, one that I'll have to take the next year revising because there is a kernel of a good story hidden, but it's surrounded by trash. Because I'm in the process of becoming a career writer, I need to be careful over wasting time that I'm given to write my book.

So, as for now, I am backing off on winning NaNo. Instead, I will take the good lessons from NaNo and apply them to my life. The biggest being, I need to somehow work on my writing everyday. No more days where I get to bedtime and wonder where all the time went, and why wasn't I able to get any writing done. If NaNo has proven nothing else to me, it has proven that more often than not, if I wasn't able to get any writing done that day, it was because I was wasting time, not that there was no time to be spared.

NaNo truly is great. It brings an energy and a camaraderie to writers, something that we in such a solitary profession very seldom feel elsewise. It revitalizes us and challenges us to look at our habits and processes in a new way. It gives our families a chance to see, yes, this writing stuff really is work, and maybe they will also appreciate it a little more as a result.

I hope my fellow writers who are doing NaNo are reaping the benefit from it as well. To my fellow pantsers, do you agree with my assesment of how NaNo treats us? You plotters out there, is NaNo easy for you?


  1. I've never NaNo'd, but I had the impression it would be easier for a pantser due to the 'just write' aspect of it. Sounds like you are a thougtful pantser and that makes a difference.

    Several of my friends who are participating are doing so with an outline and seem to be doing really well. Another reason I didn't see me finding it worthwhile. (I seldom outline!)

    You've given me an interesting viewpoint to ponder!

  2. I'm a former panster. Pantsing and Nano didn't work for me. Now I'm a plotter from hell. Unfortunately, I too have stalled due to time issues. Not sure if I will be able to catch up or not but I'm gonna try.

  3. My experience with NaNoWriMo is that I can get the wordcount much more easily if I don't plot in advance, but that I have to throw out a lot of what I write in the first revision. Too many of my ideas when I am writing fast don't lead in useful directions

    When I plot out, I spend a lot of energy trying to channel creativity into the structure and the word count is slow as I try to flesh out a story I have already planned. On the other hand, I end up with something that is much less messy as a first draft.

  4. You forgot the layers and puzzlers. Those are two other types of writers. Maybe next time I blog I explain the four different types.

    I am a pantser myself and admire the plotter. Would love to have a book completely figured out before I actually start writing.

  5. I'm a plotser. I like to plot, but with Nano and the fast pace, sometimes just having an idea to work toward is the best for me. That said, if I don't maintain a steady pace with writing, I dive bomb and get stuck too. With Nano, I've plotted twice and had a partial plot once (I had started plotting too late in October and didn't get a chance to finish it). The two times with the plot where pretty good, although, just because you have a plot DOES NOT make it easier. lol! Three times I've pantsed with a general idea of where the story is going. And those three times have been the last three Nanos. It's totally doable to be a pantser with Nano. With the novels that I have pantsed with Nano, one is being queried, one written, and the other waiting in line for editing. =)