The P&P Dichotomy

You’ll see it time and again. Writers will divide into two groupers, the self-proclaimed planners and pantsers (as in going by the seat of your pants), abhorring the others methods while championing their own. Planners find pantsing to be anarchic and paralyzing, while pantsers find planning to be rigid and stifling. If I had to chose, I would consider myself a planner. I outline extensively before I start writing anything and quite enjoy organizing and getting a broad picture of where the story is going before diving in.

The truth is, however, that this forced dichotomy is unnecessary. The writer’s muse is not such an easy thing to categorize, and trying to do so is a disservice. Refusing to outline is bound to give you a tangled mess of plot that you will have to devote more time to unravel than you would have simply by outlining. And refusing to budge from the guidance of your outline is going to hamper the natural growth of your story.

I find that my approach to writing is more like a sandwich. I start by brainstorming a flurry of unhampered ideas and experimentation. Once I decide that I have enough material to go on, I begin to nail things down with plotting and planning and outlining. And with my outline as guidance, I begin to write.

But as I write, I realize things might work better differently than I wrote down. Maybe a character interaction I’d planned results in a romance I’d never expected. Or maybe I realize that sparing a character from a planned death can benefit the plot down the road. Do I throw out these ideas simply because they weren’t planned out ahead of time? No, of course not. I adapt.

The key is not to allow yourself to be pulled along by your muse like a plastic bag in the wind, or religiously plot out every time your character breathes. Writing is like taking a boat onto the ocean. You pack as many provisions and plan as many contingencies and travel routes as possible beforehand, but once you open those sails, it’s up to the ocean where you’ll end up.

If you guys have your own opinions or tips about plotting and pantsing, feel free to drop a comment below. And if you have any requests for future topics, let me know!

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