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Pantsing vs Planning a Book

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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