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Michelle's Musings

Panster vs. Planner

As a fiction writer, I've never been a fan of outlines. It seems to me that you have to know your story before you outline it, so why not just write it to begin with?

 

While I understand the merits of planning, once I have a story concept in my head, I tend to want to sit down and plug away, sometimes not even knowing how the story will end. I'll fill in the blanks, if any, during subsequent revisions.

 

I guess I'm one of those "by the seat of her pants" writers. Which brings me to this term, panster (vs. planner or plotter), that I've been hearing more oftenApparently, it's been around for some time now, from back in the day when folks preached that all books should begin with an outline.

 

Panster is shorthand for someone who does what I describe above--a writer who, in essence, lets the story write itself. A panster has an idea for a story and a few characters in mind, but she may not have the plot points contrived at first sitting. A planner, on the other hand, methodically maps out or outlines plot points in advance.

 

Therein lies the crux of the issue.

 

The common pro for outlining is that it helps structure plot lines. I would think that being a planner might stifle the flow of creative juices with all that organizing of ideas into charts or columns or on Post-it Notes destined for a storyboard. Since one of the tenets of crafting a novel is to disregard the compulsion to self-edit (a struggle in itself) during the brainstorm of that initial draft, does outlining help or hurt that process?

  

In researching this topic, I found just as many blogs and articles for, against, and ambivalent about panster writing. No matter which approach I contemplate, it can be a bit daunting just trying to get a project started--let alone figure out which method to use. Either has its merits.

 

So, what say you? Do you go with the outline, or do you fly by the seat of your pants? Are you a panster or planner, or a little bit of both?

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