Every year as the beginning of NaNoWriMo sneaks ever closer the forums light up with a wide array of greetings, games, debates, emotional rants, and pleas for help. There are certain topics that rise from the dead year after year, and one such is a poll of sorts: “Are you a planner or a pantser?”
“Planner” is pretty self explanatory…you plan your novel before attempting to write it. You might create character sheets, sketch maps of the world you’re creating, jot down notes on particular scenes, or even lay out your chapters step-by-step with everything except the actual prose. You are organized.
“Pantser” is a less intuitive (non)word, so for those who have never heard it before, it’s short for “by the seat of your pants”-er. This is someone who doesn’t plan at all. They might have an idea for their novel – maybe even a couple of character names – but that’s as far as it goes. These people approach the first of November with a strange mixture of courage and insanity, with no real idea of what is going to end up on the paper/computer screen as they write.
For NaNoWriMo’s 2008 through 2011 I was definitely a pantser. Even during the year I did a fanfiction, and the year I did a rewrite (I’m a rebel), I was absolutely flying by the seat of my pants. As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts, I’m just not a planner by nature. I get ideas, and I write them. That’s pretty much my process. But this year I’m (*gasp*) changing it up a bit. As most of you know, I’m working a camp job in Northern Alberta. That means that for 14 of the days of November I’ll be on camp, working 12 hour days and spending over an hour a day on the bus. Then I also have to work in time to eat breakfast and supper while at camp, plus things like doing my laundry and showering. All in all I have about an hour a day to myself that can be used for writing. From experience I know that I am capable of writing a lot of words in an hour, but only if I already know what I’m going to write. If I have any writer’s block at all, or if I’m unsure where the next scene is going, all is lost. I can spend half a day on the computer only to pluck out a couple hundred words, rather than the 1667 I need to write each day in order to win.
One method of rectifying this issue would be to write as much as I can during the other 16 days, attempting to bolster my word count on the days I’m not working. This would be an excellent plan if not for a couple of things…I call them Jason and Adrianna. See, I spend two weeks at a time away from my husband and daughter, so it’s not likely that I’m going to spend my two weeks with them holed away, writing. In fact, I may actually get less writing done when I’m home than when I’m at work.
So this is my plan…to become a planner (*cue gasping, strangled noises*). Over the next five days, when I’m not doing housework or playing with the baby, I’m going to be planning my novel. It’s going to be a rewrite (remember what I said about being a rebel?) but the original was never properly planned either and has gone off in a dozen different directions, so I think this is going to be a good thing. I’m going to use an idea I found online and scribble out as many details as I can on my characters, flesh out my ideas for particular people and places that are important, and all in all try to figure out exactly where the story is going before I start writing it. As this is going to be a monumental effort on my part, I’ll share some of it on this blog as I’m working on it. Look forward to seeing my brain shrivel like a dried out plum. 🙂