What kind of planner are you?

With how it breaks down to: planner, pantser or plantser, it feels a bit like filling in one of those questionnaires and getting your personality type. Like it’s one of those identity things that says something about you when you tell people.

Now I’ve written blog posts about planning before. In fact I think it was a topic towards the end of last year on WriYe. I don’t like to repeat myself so I’ll try to say something a little different this time. In the past I’ve talked about the planning process itself and how precisely I do it. This blog topic tacked ‘why?’ onto the end of ‘what kind of planner are you?’ and it’s the why I wish to consider today.

How much I plan differs based on what I’m writing. I think I have said that before. With original novels I plan for more thoroughly than I do with fanfic. Furthermore with fanfic how much I plan depends on the scope of the project. I have written fanfics with barely more than a premise, so completely pantsing basically. Those tend to be short ‘oneshots’ that aren’t very long. Anything chapter-based needs some kind of plan. The question is how much?

With original novels I can so far as bullet point scene-by-scene outlines. I have so much planning that I know everything really before I start and writing is just colouring it in. I have thought to myself on more than one occasion that this might be too much, that I could be strangling the life out of the idea. After all, if I’ve basically ‘written’ the story with the detailed plan, where’s the interest and the fun in actually writing it? I always told myself it was a good thing to plan so much because then I knew where I was going, and I wouldn’t start the writing day confused and flailing around without direction. I thought it would help me beat procrastination.

(it does not)

It also doesn’t make for a cleaner draft. I have written quite a few first drafts of novels now and all of them have needed extensive revision. Each time I think I’ve planned really well and that I have ‘tested’ the outline, and so I won’t have to cut and rewrite huge swathes – and I always do. They say “no plan survives first contact with the enemy” and at this stage of my writing career I perhaps don’t have the experience to know enough before I start, and so “no plan survives first contact with the blank page”. I write to the plan but the plan was bad in places and needs adjustment. I don’t know that until I write it obviously but what I’m saying is having a detailed plan didn’t stop me from making the mistake in the first place.

The fanfic I’m currently writing is a crossover between Sanctuary and Warehouse 13. It’s over 70k and it’s not quite done. It is definitely novel-length. I have a lot of notes on it, random thoughts I wanted to include, snippets of scenes that came to me etc. I also had an outline that took me through the story BUT it wasn’t a scene-by-scene outline. I have the major points of the plot worked out but how many scenes, and the scene order, is up to me when I sit down to write each session. I check in with these characters, then I visit these others, and then I think I’ll cover this subplot etc. I do what feels right at the time.

To be honest I think this is probably a healthier way of planning because it leaves some of the decision-making for the writing process. I’m not just “colouring it in” I am actually writing the story. Now does this qualify as plantsing? I’m not sure because the definition of being a planner has always been broad. Some people know every detail to the nth degree, they have world building up the wazoo. I always used to call myself a planner but there was a lot I didn’t decide on until I got to a point that needed it (I’m lazy with my world building).

One person’s planning might be another person’s plantsing – it’s hard to know. I guess as with most self-identifying labels, it’s about what it feels like to the person themselves. When I think about it, do I feel like a planner, plantser or pantser? And as we started off also need to ask the all important question of why?

I’d like to just go back for a minute to when I said I do it differently depending on what I’m writing – the why question. I think it’s because original novels matter so much more to me and so I seek to control the process. I wish to control what frightens me. I think if I prepare sufficiently then it’ll be ok – but as I’ve said in this post already, it never is so that’s actually a fallacy.

To conclude I think I probably lean towards being a planner out of fear but it would be better, and more relaxed, for me to be more of a plantser. However, my need for control due to aforementioned said fear will probably always lead to over planning certain things.