Thursday, September 27, 2007

Part Two: Seat of the Pants vs. Planning

Two writing techniques, "Seat of the Pants" and "Planning", expose writers to a wealth of opportunities depending on what works best for their individual preferences. As with all methods, there are advantages and disadvantages. One system will work for a particular writer but may not work for another. Finding a way to write (that works for you) involves a great deal of trial and error but finding your method and developing it, is the key toward successful productivity and an enjoyable writing experience.

"Seat of the Pants"
One technique some writers prefer is thought of as 'seat of the pants' writing. These writers start with a character or rough story concept and leap into the writing. Most of the time, these writers focus on the linear creation of their novel, from page one through to 'the end' but others find their creativity focused in random scenes which they put together like a jigsaw puzzle.

These writers tend to spend time preparing long before they begin to write. They get to know their characters, brainstorm about them, and become familiar with what they expect from their protagonists. Planners usually outline their story. They know their theme and story-worthy problem. They know how the book will end and they know at least the major steps on the path to getting there.

Which Are You?

1. The Freedom to Just Write
Pantser Pro: Writing in this manner gives writers the freedom to let there imagination roam.
Pantser Con: The uncertainty and lack of direction can lead to writer's block.

Planner Pro: Planners proceed with more confidence because they know where they're going and they know what steps to take to get there.
Planner Con: These writers need time to focus on where they are and what each scene needs to accomplish to tie into the scenes around it.

2. The Adventure of Discovery
Pantser Pro: Writers enjoy the journey of discovery, watching the story, plot and characters reveal themselves as they write.
Pantser Con: The plot can meander without purpose, be virtually non-existent, or not contain enough conflict, emotion and connection to be story-worthy.

Planner Pro: Planners have a story outline and include intricate details long before they begin writing. They have the opportunity to weave vital clues and connectivity into the plot from the first page of the first draft.
Planner Con: Already knowing the significant details can sometimes lead to a sense of boredom.

3. The Ebb and Flow of Creativity
Pantser Pro: Writers can often experience extended periods of creativity that lead to pages of finished writing in a single sitting.
Pantser Con: These bursts are usually followed by inaction and stagnation.

Planner Pro: These writers often find it easier to find their flow. They tend to schedule time to write and get into a grove, developing the habit which allows them to write what they need to write when they choose to do so.
Planner Con: The structure and routine can become repetative or restrictive giving writers pressure to perform which often leads to writer's block.

4. Linear or Random Method
Pantser Pro: This technique lends itself well to both linear and 'out of order' creation that gives writers flexibility in both time and scene focus.
Pantser Con: Stories can feel piece-meal or disjointed if not carefully rewritten and well edited after the first draft.

Planner Pro: With their outline in hand, writers can choose which scene to write when and have the knowledge of the scenes that will eventually surround it to weave it into the story.
Planner Con: Planners can feel rigid and may avoid following an instinctive urge to deviate from the outline and feel obligated to write a specific scene, even when it is not flowing for them.

5. The Creation of Real Character
Pantser Pro: Writers enjoy discovering their characters as they develop slowly through the story and run less risk of revealing too much too soon or too little that readers never grow close to the primary characters.
Pantser Con: Sometimes, not knowing your characters can leave them without the depth needed to keep readers interested.

Planner Pro: Writers are familiar with their characters, know them deeply and predict their responses to situations. They often feel like dear friends and can develop a strong connection.
Planner Con: These writers run the risk of revealing too much or too little of the characters to readers, are so close to their characters that it becomes hard to 'do what needs to be done' if the plot calls for their demise or even become candid, taking their character for granted or simply get tired of them.

6. Structure and Discipline
Pantser Pro: This method allows writers to write when they feel inspired which often makes the process of writing much more enjoyable.
Pantser Con: Lack of structure and discipline can lead to an inability to plan ahead for deadlines or focus on other writing projects.

Planner Pro: Planning writers often feel a great deal of confidence. They know before they begin dedicating weeks to writing the first draft that they have a solid, worthy story to write. They also tend to be the sort of people who can structure their time and discipline themselves for regular writing.
Planner Con: Rigid structure and a logical approach may stifle creativity.

Do you know other pros and cons of the two techniques? What have you found works for you and what doesn't? How do you deal with the disadvantages of your technique?

Have Your Say!

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Blogger Michele L. Tune said...

The more I read this and think about it, the more I feel like I'm really not a "planner." That is weird, considering I make lists and "plan" everything else in my life. But when it comes to writing, I do write when I feel the inspiration (as often as possible) instead of actually planning something and scheduling time to write it.

Hmmm... I'm learning things about myself here! Keep up the great work, Rebecca, you're really making us writers "think!"

"Writing the Cyber Highway"

5:01 AM  
Blogger Rebecca Laffar-Smith said...

*grins* Well getting writers thinking is a great sign. :-)

I think this is the big difference between planners and pre-planners. Planners need everything in control where as most people aren't at that extreme end of the scale. There is the murky inbetween which is a blend of both working together.

Personally, I think getting your blend working for you is the most ideal option. It deals with the pros and cons of both extremes.

9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anne said...

You're doing a great job with this series. The truth is, I'd like to be a planner, but I can't think of what to plan (and I do get bored when I know). It would be so great to sit down and know what I was going to do that day.... or would it?

I don't even plan my advertising/PR freelance writing. I think my subconscious knows exactly the plan for the piece -- so I'm probably planning more than I say (I've been doing this for 20 years so I know how the pieces go together for that kind of writing). What I need to do is tinker with it, to find the voice, the phrases that say what I'm trying to get the reader to feel.

But we're talking about fiction. I have to be a pantser because I write to find out what I don't know. If I know it, I'll be bored and I want write. Of course, if I don't know, I'll get scared and not write, either. Ah me.

12:54 AM  
Blogger Rebecca Laffar-Smith said...

:-) Thanks Anne. It is really hard to find that balance between Pantser and Planner that works best for each of us. I find I'm too unfocused, and lack attention if I don't seriously force myself to the task each day. I've found the less I plan the less I accomplish. So while I was originally more of a pantser than anything I've been strengthening my planning habits and thankfully growing more and more productive as I do so.

1:24 PM  

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