Saturday, September 22, 2007

Part One: Are you a Pantser or a Planner?

Most writers have some idea how organized they prefer to be when writing but the techniques of ‘Seat of the Pants’ writers can differ greatly from ‘Planners’. You might feel more comfortable with a routine and plan in your every day life but find this structure stifling to your creativity when you write. Maybe you go with the flow from day to day but need to have solid goals and plans to make progress with your novel. Take this short quiz to find out if you’re a Pantser or a Planner.

  1. You get the idea for a character while washing dishes one evening.

    1. You immediately dry your hands, take note of every detail, branch off, brainstorm and freewrite to explore all the possible characteristics and potential stories this character could be involved in.

    2. You dry your hands and swiftly note down significant key points as memory joggers then return to the suds.

    3. You continue to ponder the character as you wash, rinse, and dry then write down your final findings and concepts.

    4. You think it over but continue with the dishes and decide to write about it at some unspecified time in the future.

    5. You go off (either immediately or after the dishes) and begin a brand new story with this character as the star.

  2. You’re asked to write a play for the Pre-K’s at the local community center.

    1. You stare at a blank page for a few hours (or days) then right before the deadline rush together a few pages the kids will have fun with.

    2. You go to the center, talk to the kids and teachers to get an idea of their interests, abilities and individual characters.

    3. You head straight home and pull out a dusty script about your pet dog that you wrote in grade school.

    4. You craft an outline and consider the various roles and the ramifications of a moral theme.

    5. You scratch out the first page of a dozen ideas but can’t settle on just one for the kids play.

  3. You’ve just finished the final installment of a fantastically detailed trilogy.

    1. You are still ga-ga over the characters and the intricacy of the plot and have been totally swept away by the story.

    2. You allow your mind to play connect-the-dots with the plot and enjoy the intricate and careful crafting involved.

    3. You start experimenting with fan-fiction off-shoots because you’re hooked on the characters and want more adventures for them.

    4. You gape at the astounding beauty of the piece and give up writing because you ‘know’ you couldn’t possibly match it.

    5. You start reading the books again; making notes in the margins and underlining notable passages, dissecting the book to see how the author accomplished it.

  4. Your midway through writing chapter five when you decide you really can’t stand your protagonist.

    1. You quit writing immediately, shelve the manuscript and decide you’ll come back ‘someday’ when you understand her better.

    2. You stop writing and start examining your mood, the more recent events and the character to first determine why you no longer like him and then how to ‘fix’ him.

    3. You keep writing and decide to see where she’s headed before you act.

    4. You keep writing but add a dramatic death scene within the next couple of pages turning your focus on a new or secondary character instead.

    5. You spend a short time giving your character an interview to discuss her thoughts and see if you can work out, together, what to do next.

  5. A new family move next door and you hear strange noises at night but see nothing of them during the day.

    1. You call the police to report the weirdo’s but later discover that the mother is simply a shift worker, the father’s a novelist and the oldest child is a rap-loving teenager.

    2. You watch from your upstairs office window, trying to see their vampire teeth or wolves fur in the moonlight.

    3. You start playing the “what if” game and generate some great story ideas based on what this family could be if they were characters in a book.

    4. You start writing blog entries or shorts about them, each with a wilder explanation than the last.

    5. You go over, introduce yourself, offer a cup of sugar and hear all about their recent trip to Brazil and her obsession with photography – all fodder for your next book.

Tally Your Points:
  1. a. 5, b. 4, c. 3, d. 2, e. 1
  2. a. 3, b. 5, c. 2, d. 4, e. 1
  3. a. 3, b. 4, c. 1, d. 2, e. 5
  4. a. 3, b. 5, c. 1, d. 2, e. 4
  5. a. 3, b. 2, c. 4, d. 1, e. 5

        5 – 7 points [Pantser]

You’re a true Pantser. You can fly with any idea and love to leap before you look. You’ve got pages of stories started but rarely finished and love to play around with new concepts, tying it all together with creativity and an exciting flare for adventure.

        8 – 12 points [Pre-Pantser]

You’d love to throw caution to the winds but often hold back from just diving right in. You prefer to consider multiple options but can go along with any challenge and turn any good idea into a potential story.

        13 – 17 points [Middle Grounder]

You’re in the safe zone and often struggle to write anything at all. You enjoy exploring ideas but want to find the best ones and don’t like wasting time writing about things you aren’t passionate about. You’ll start stories with some planning but also enjoy the adventure of taking detours.

        18 – 22 points [Pre-Planner]

You like to do the legwork in your mind. You’ll sometimes plan things out and often have the basic map laid out in your head but keep adding to your plans and are flexible for changes. You generally have a solid destination in mind when you begin writing but aren’t sure of all the roads you’ll need to take to get their. You’re familiar with your main characters but often face blocks caused by being unsure what course they would most likely take in a given situation.

        23 – 25 points [Planner]

You like to brainstorm and outline every detail before you begin. You know your characters intimately and understand their deep motivations. You can be a little pedantic and often spend so much time planning and researching that you don’t leave enough to actually spend writing. When you do write you know exactly what to expect from every scene and work intricate details across our novel like knitting a sweater.

[Disclaimer: This quiz is not scientific and results may vary. It would be wonderful to share your results with you. What answers did you give and do you feel your result is accurate? Did you enjoy the quiz? Would you like me to put together more in the future? Would you like this one to be more detailed?]

[Note: You're welcome to discuss the quiz on your own blog/website if you have one. If you do, please link to the quiz rather than copying it and post a comment with a link to your site/blog so we can visit you.]

[Link To This Quiz:]
[Invite your friends to check it out!]

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Blogger Michele L. Tune said...

Interesting. I scored a 22, but really I'm not much of a fiction writer. I have started a fiction piece, but mostly write non-fiction, nostalgia, profiles, personal/inspirational stories, etc.

It's odd that I would be considered a "Pre-planner", when all my life I've considered myself a "planner."

It was fun, though. I'll drop in again sometime.


9:40 PM  
Blogger Silvia said...

This quiz was right on! I scored 21, which calls me a Pre-Planner. That's 100 percent accurate for me, as I like to develop the idea of a character and form the basics of a plot, but little else. I then just start writing. I'm often surprised at the twists and turn that my characters take, which sounds odd to a person who doesn't write stories. "How can you not know where your characters are going? You're making them up!" Well, I'd say that I'm more making up a persona who follows a path.

I liked this quiz a lot and posted a link to it on my website, I'd love to hear what others scored on this, too! :)

12:48 AM  
Blogger Michele L. Tune said...

Hi Rebecca,

Just thought I'd let you know that I linked to your quiz!


3:54 AM  
Blogger Rebecca Laffar-Smith said...

:-) I'm glad the quiz seems to be getting it mostly right. I expect most planners will come into the "pre-planner" category because the "planner" category is reserved for the people who do planning to the extreme. Hey, if it works for them it works for them.

(Maybe I need to change the results so that it lists the fourth category as "Planner" and fifth as "Extreme Planner"?)

I'm firmly in the "pre-planner" slot too and it works for fiction and non-fiction alike. :-)

I'm hoping to find some unsuspecting pantsers who can take the test so I can make sure it's not slanted. So, if you think you're a "Seat of the Pants" writer PLEASE let me know how you scored!

Thanks for your comments and the link ups. :-) I'll be wandering about your blogs soon too!

9:42 AM  
Blogger Michele L. Tune said...

Hi Rebecca,

You've been tagged! See my post here:


11:05 PM  
Blogger Michele L. Tune said...

Sorry about the dead link!

It's here:

11:07 PM  
Blogger Emily Veinglory said...

I'm a plan-tzer ;)
I think that sounds cooler than middle-grounder...

7:52 AM  
Blogger Rebecca Laffar-Smith said...

*chuckles* It does indeed sound cooler Emily. :-) Do you think the description suits you?

Thanks for the challenge Michele! Check out the result at:

9:34 AM  
Anonymous Sam said...

I scored a 15. I'm a Middle-Grounder. And this part was dead-on accurate: I "often struggle to write anything at all." Maybe I'll use some of the other answers in this quiz to try and change that.

12:09 AM  
Blogger Rebecca Laffar-Smith said...

Welcome to the Round-About Sam. :-) The Middle-Ground is actually a pretty good place to be if you can swing the motivation factor slightly toward the planner side. Perhaps try scheduling appointments with yourself for writing time and leaving off the day before with an unfinished sentence or the first line of the next scene. :-)

9:43 AM  
Anonymous Nancy said...

I love that you structured this as a quiz as opposed to any other sort of explanatory post. Quizzes are the best. :)

I ended up with 14 points, so I guess I'm a middle-grounder. That sounds about right, I think.


2:32 PM  
Blogger Rebecca Laffar-Smith said...

Quizzes are so much fun but they're suprisingly hard to put together. :-) I'm glad you enjoyed this one.

4:43 PM  

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