J. L. Willow

Author ~ Blogger ~ Storyteller

There are two types of people in the writing world: Pantsers and Planners. They are both great writers, but both of them don’t fully understand the other side of the argument.
If you’re aren’t already aware, these two terms are referring to how a writer prepares before they begin their book. A planner is someone who outlines before they write, whether it be a hyper-specific chapter directory or just a series of events the book will follow. A pantser is someone who doesn’t plan and begins writing with only a vague idea in mind (the term comes from the phrase “flying by the seat of your pants”). In this post, I’m going to explain how I prepare for writing a book and give some ideas for how you can perfect your own process. Some concepts work better for some people than others, so don’t feel that doing one or the other makes you a good or bad writer. Once my book comes out, I’ll provide some pictures and reference points. I don’t want to do that just yet, though, because it’ll give things away!
Personally, I’m absolutely a planner. Everything I do, writing and otherwise, has to have a meticulously crafted outline before I begin. After working on countless projects, I have my routine for planning before I write pretty down-pat. For me, there are two major parts that can be categorized under the planning process: the outline and the character analysis.
The outline can be as broad or specific as you want. Sometimes the ideas I get are simply a scene or a place and then it can be difficult to write a full outline. In times like those, I just write down whatever’s in my head and hope for the best. Things will usually start to fall into place after a couple of days or so if the concept has room to grow. But most of the time, I’m able to put a pretty complete concept for the piece down onto paper before I start anything.
Character analysis can be difficult if you don’t have an outline, but it is still possible. For my novel, The Scavenger, the first idea I had (before even the major plot was formed) was the relationship between the two characters and what struggles they would face. This concept was written down even before the plot came fully into fruition. Analysis can include everything from emotions, traits, eye color, and personality. I would recommend writing everything down that you can think of. Having a reference sheet to look back on while you’re writing is extremely helpful, and can make the process go a lot smoother. This can be especially handy if you’re looking to describe something specific, like a character’s eye-color, and don’t want to look back through your entire manuscript.
And that’s pretty much it for my style of planning! It doesn’t take too long, but it’s extremely helpful for me. If you are a planner, you can write as little or as much before you begin the book. As for pantsers, I can’t really help you that much. I tried writing a book without an outline once and it didn’t really turn out. If you can write a full book without an outline, then good for you, but I’m not one of those people. I have respect for people who can transfer their thoughts directly into a writing piece as that is pretty difficult for me.
Are you a planner or a panster? Leave a comment below! I love to hear how different people begin the process of writing.
Hope this helped distinguish between the two!


— J. L. Willow

2 thoughts on “Planners vs. Pantsers: The Eternal Debate

  1. Jon W says:

    I’m a planner too….I admit it….but I get more done as a result typically


  2. jrthacker says:

    I am a total pantser. I have never outlined and always go into a book with nothing but the climax in mind. As I start writing, the characters, plot, and everything else magically fall into place until I get to the climax. Then all I have to do is come up with a great ending. That too, all happens with the magic of writing! 😁


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