Friday, February 15, 2013

Random Notes: Planner or Panster?

There are two camps of writers out there: planners and pansters. Planners are the ones who outline their whole entire plot before they even write a word. And very often, they've written up lots of notes on their characters and even interviewed them to find out all about them! By the time they sit down to write, they know every thing.

Then there are the "pansters." Pansters don't do any of the above stuff. They fly by the seat of their pants, at least for that first draft. They don't outline (at least not before hand) and they don't know every single hair and idiocyncracy of their characters before they write.

I'm a panster. On of the things I love about writing fiction is the element of surprise. I get chills when the plot takes unexpected turns. I truly enjoy getting to know my characters, just like (hopefully) the reader does. I love to sit back and watch the whole thing unfold and reel out in my head like a movie. It's truly magical...

Which is not to say I don't think about the story after it taps me on the shoulder or whispers in my ear, "Write me." I live with it for a few weeks to see if I stay fascinated by it. If I do, then I write down (in free form) everything I know at that point about it. Often, I never look at those notes again, but it does give me an overall picture, kind of like looking down on a trail from the ridge above. But still, it's magic.

It is in the revision process that I go from the magic to the nuts-and-bolts work: cutting, tightening, and re-seeing. That first draft is all about discovery.

So when I get asked (as writers sometimes do with each other) if I'm a planner/outliner or a panster and I feel embarrassed to say, "Panster," I remember these two quotes:

"You have to play what you hear, not what you know." Miles Davis
"Dont' think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity."  Ray Bradbury

So how about you? Are you a planner or a panster?

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