Feb 19, 2011

Are You a Panster or Planner?

First off, what exactly is a panster?

A panster is a writer who writes with very little knowledge to where the story is going. Story planning is just not for them. They do all the planning subconsciously in their mind. Pansters are writers who want to be just as surprised as their readers will be while they are crafting their novel. It’s the need to find out what is going to happen next with their characters and world that keeps them plowing through their novel.

So then what’s a planner?
(You know, besides the thing that you use to keep track of things). ;)

A planner is exactly the way it sounds. It’s a writer that plans things usually before the actual writing process starts. They outline the story whether it’s a one sentence description or a whole page on what will happen in each chapter. They do character outlines, and they have a clear depiction of what’s going to happen in the beginning, the middle, and the end of their novel.

So which is better?

There is no real answer to that. Different things work for different people. Sure one way can be a lot more strenuous than the other, but in the end they all come to the same conclusion—a completed book. The road to getting there is the hard part.

Both ways have pros and cons. A con to being a panster would be that it could get you into some sticky situations such as not knowing the key points of your novel and getting stuck. A con to being a planner is knowing too much about your novel and getting bored with it.

As for me, I do a little bit of both. I know where the story’s headed but I leave out enough room to maneuver. I like to be surprised as well, but not so much that I’d end up re-writing the whole thing twice just to get the story’s plot right.

My overall thoughts on pansting/planning:

I think it’s a good idea to know where your story’s going before you start. Sometimes if you go into it without some kind of guide, whether it’s a detailed outline or a short synopsis, you can either end up getting stuck or spending a lot more time writing it than you normally would have. Outlines are only as detailed as you make them so don’t be afraid to use them. I used to because I thought they’d only lead me to a dreaded dead end trap but now I’m okay with it. It just takes some getting used to.

 Question of the day:

What are your thoughts on pansting? Are you a planner/panster yourself?



  1. I'm definitely a planner. I plan an overall synopsis and even chapter summaries before I start writing. But I'm not married to my planning. If the story or characters want to go in a different direction, I let them. Why? Because we can't always see what's best for the story until be are in it.

  2. I am a Panster through and through. It's like I get these images in my head and I write down the scene. It could be something that will happen at the end of the story and I haven't even started the beginning. I know that I want the scene (for the moment). I do think being a panster has the down fall of how do I bridge my scenes... Sometimes I struggle there and then wish I had a little bit of the planner in me.

  3. I used to be a pantser but found that I wasted huge amounts of time on reworking chapters after the fact, that veered off the track. Now I write a synopsis, and do an outline. I do find, though the scenes taking unexpected turns once in a while--and that's fun.

  4. I'm both. I have to have SOME type of idea of where I'm going, but the rest is totally unknown. It could be anything -- whether it's aliens take the princess, or the earth exploding. I never have an idea. :) But usually, I'll have at least the first few chapters planned.

  5. My name is Molly and I'm a panster. (Makes me feel like I'm a meeting of some sort.)

    Anyway...I could quite possibly do a bit of both - and by bit I mean, I know some scenes I want to get in there, but for 99.9% of the rest of the time, I don't have a clue, other than where the characters decide to take it.

    Then again, I don't really plan anything in life. It's utterly fascinating, truthfully.

  6. I started out as a planner, and now I'm half-an-half. (Isn't that what Seamus Finnigan said in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone?)

    Anyway. I start out with an outline and a one-sentence summary of my novel, along with some character info. Then around halfway or three-quarters through the novel, I scrap the outline and just plan a few scenes ahead, or not at all. Usually I've added quite a few new characters by then, and the original ones have changed last names, eye color, personalities, etc. By then the character stuff isn't much help either. :)

    I know there are people who start out with no idea at all and end up with a completed novel, but I'll never be one of them.

  7. I was a Panster that realized being a Planner was better for me personally. Planning allowed me to write faster with shorter roadblocks if any. Now it takes me a month or two to outline, then about 3 months to finish first draft.

  8. Your blog is so fun!!!

    I'm a panster, though sometimes I wish I was a planner. I love that I can write books in under 2 weeks, but I don't like that revisions take FOREVER.

    I guess both ways there are positives and negatives!

  9. I'm a total panster. I know the main points of the book, but other than that, I just let the ideas flow as I write. For instance, the book I'm writing right now. There was supposed to be about one chapter between one main event and another, and I later on find six. I don't know how I found so much stuff to put in there that needed to be said.

  10. Panster, definitely. :) The only book I've ever planned out was A Passion Called Hate, and, well, I hate it. :P I subconsciously plan as I go, but there's no ACTUAL planning. :D


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