Planners, Pantsers, and Plantsers ~ Oh, My! | Part One : Planners

One of the coolest things about Twitter’s #WritingCommunity is its diversity. It’s a group of people from all over the world, at different stages of their writing journey, in a vast range of careers and fields—not to mention the innumerable genres out there.

Each of these writers has developed and continues to evolve their particular writing process for creating new story, be it a short story or a long novel, and each generally falls into one of three zones:

  • Planners
  • Pantsers
  • Plantsers

While some writers pay little attention to these titles, others take them as seriously as others take their Hogwarts House.

In this three-part series, I’ll be discussing the common traits of each of these writers.

For this first post, let’s talk about Planners.

As the name suggests, Planners are writers who go into a new project with a plan in mind.

Oftentimes, Planners are associated with outlines that cover every inch of a story, stepping into every corner of the world they have created and knowing the most intimate details of every character’s past, present, and occasionally future regardless of whether or not such events will ever come to pass or if such facts will be pertinent to any part of the narrative.

I’ve joked about a handful of inconsistencies in her work in past articles, but J.K. Rowling is one of the most common examples of a Planner’s. There’s a story that I’ve seen going around about how out of all the questions readers could have asked, Rowling was afraid of being asked about the specific details regarding Dumbledore’s wand. At the time, she had already thought so far ahead into the series that she knew he would have an Elder Wand. However, this information coming to light too soon would have proved to be such a massive spoiler for later installments in the Harry Potter series. Thankfully for her, reportedly no one wondered at this.

This method of planning out a story ahead of time can be helpful when the writing begins. It’s like having a map to follow, telling the writer where they need to go as their story progresses. However, this can also pose problems from time to time if the Planner does explore beyond what they’ve outlined, as any changes might result in their needing to rework the entire outline in order to accommodate new concepts.

Once a Planner has created their outline, that can act as a guide for them down the road and help to prevent the dreaded Writer’s Block, whereas a Pantser might encounter feelings of being stuck if they don’t know what direction their characters are going at a particular moment.

As I’ve mentioned in past articles, one of the difficulties I regularly face as a writer is time management. Planners have the advantage of having a clear outline is an ability to establish clear deadlines. Planners are more able to say that they’ll have Chapter Eighteen completed by August 27, as opposed to Pantsers who work without these set plans may find it a little more difficult to set up these deadlines. This isn’t to say a Pantser or Plantser is unable to set goals for themselves,  but these may be a little more vague than a Planner’s.

Even though I identify as a Plantser, which I’ll be discussing soon enough, there is one side of being a Planner I have come to experience often, and that’s in editing.

As someone who goes into new stories with a rough an outline, I don’t leave myself much room to explore new ideas for scenes beyond the purview of the plan. One of the first steps suggested for editing a piece of fiction is to cut out any unnecessary scenes or characters that don’t benefit the story or serve a purpose. However, if a writer is a Planner and they haven’t strayed from the outline they started the draft with, deciding which scenes are extraneous can be difficult. Pantsers, who work more spontaneously, often have a number of things they can eliminate early on in the editing stages, whereas Planners have already established what matters for a story’s progression.

Come back next week for the second installment in this series!

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