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Pantsing vs Planning a Book

Owen Jones

Pantsing vs Planning a Book

Writers, of books and probably other forms of writing, are divided into two kinds: those who write their book as they go, that is, by the seat of their pants – and hence ‘pantsing’ – and those who plan their novel. It is called pantsing vs planning.

I didn’t about pantsing vs planning a book until a year or so ago, I thought that all writers were pantsers like I am. However, it is quite obvious that there is also a huge number of degrees in between. I wrote my first book, ‘Daddy’s Hobby’ with only the middle and the ending as fixed.

The second one, I planned by chapter title. So, I wrote the chapter titles for the first three chapters and pantsed the thousands of words in between. This worked well, because I could steer the story the way I wanted it to go, while still allowing inspiration to have its spontaneous effect.

I have continued in that mode until the present day.

So, the current book that I am writing, Dead Centre II, has been written in the same way, but I am beginning to have my doubts as to which is the best approach.

First, I should tell you that I have chosen pantsing vs planning for all thirty-odd of my novels so far. However, today, I started to wonder whether more planning was in order. I now think that the more complicated the story, or the more it goes outside your general knowledge, the more planning it will take.

This latest novel goes into areas that I do not fully understand. At the beginning, I thought I could skirt around that, but at 75% of the way through, I now understand that I cannot. Perhaps planning from the start would have revealed my weaknesses – I don’t know, but I suspect that it would have.

I don’t want to kill inspiration, it is one of the things that i find exciting about writing, but there has to be a happy medium which doesn’t have to be a fixed ratio. Rather, I think it is worth planning the chapter titles, as one would paragraphs in an article, and analysing how much you know about each chapter.

It could highlight possible future blocks.

***

Dead Centre II is requiring a lot of research, which I am enjoying doing, although it slows me down from the breakneck speeds that I normally write at – at least my friends tell me that I get a lot of writing done in a day, even if I am not a fast typist. I am used to writing 3,500 a day, but that has been cut to a thousand now, if I am lucky.

As long as the story is good though, that’s the main thing. One of my fears is that one day someone will write in a review something like ‘it is impossible to get from here to there in x hours, it is twice as far as you say’. The same goes when using unfamiliar terminology.

It hasn’t happened yet, but the dread is always there nevertheless.

All the best,

+Owen Jones

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