To Pants or Not to Pants?
If you have never attempted National Novel Writing Month, you may not know that “pantsing” is actually a verb, as in to write by the seat of your pants as opposed to planning out every aspect of your story.
In a recent blogpost on the NaNoWriMo blog at the Office of Letters and Light, poster Grant Faulkner explained that perhaps people who are more comfortable with clutter in their lives make better pantsers. They are not usually afraid of a little mess. He went on to sate that approaching an entire novel, particularly one you will be writing in only a month, with a pantser attitude may not be the answer. Unstructured planning is better than none at all.
Older posts on the same blog revealed that some people felt that outlines were the death of creativity while others took a more anal retentive approach to the task. I have always fallen somewhere in the middle of the great outline debate. I will not fill a page with perfectly labeled entries for every character and chapter summary. This feels too constricting, like an itchy wool scarf around my neck. But, there must be some kind of plan with notes.
I have won NaNo all four times I attempted it. I have had detailed timelines and I have had no clue where I was going. I found it much easier to write at top speed when I was following a well-laid path. The blank page is scary enough without hearing the minutes of November tick on by. I found that the stories that had just the barest hint of a plan were impossible to write in a linear beginning-to-end fashion, and they are also the ones that need the most rearranging and editing when they are done.
Other bloggers on the Office of Letters and Light blog admitted that they plan more as justification to get their hands on all the pens and notebooks they can find. As a previously admitted office-supply addict, I can relate. I always have a NaNo notebook with me from mid-October through December 1. I fill it with things I may need to know for my novel, character ideas, rough plot outline, possible names, possible titles and the like.
So tell me, are you a pantser or a planner? How much do you plan? Some people swear by Scrivener or timeline software; others like the old-fashioned notebook. Do you have tools you rely on both before and during NaNo?