NaNoWriMo Prep: Planning vs. Pantsing

So you’ve finally declared your novel on NaNoWriMo and you’re ready to get into the thick of it. Awesome! Before you do that, though, are you going to plan or pants?

“Well, um, I uh, umm-”

It’s alright buddy, I’ve got you covered.


Planners are a special breed of people. They’re the meticulous type, going over their carefully outlined plots with a fine-toothed comb, ready to attack the first sign of a weak link in their novel. Come November 1st, you can absolutely expect Planners to have a pen – or keyboard – in one hand, and a perfectly outlined plot in the other.

Or…maybe not. You see, planners work in two different ways. There’s the planner that knows every single detail of their novel, down to the composition of the soil, and there’s the planner that has a few notes strewn here and there that detail the characters, overall plot, or a few pieces of lore. Some planners are a hybrid mix of the two; they have certain aspects of their plot written down in excruciating detail, but don’t even know what the name of their main character is.

One of the downsides that I’ve noticed with planning is that beginning writers tend to freak out if their writing veers off the outlined course. One bit of advice I have for those writers: don’t worry, this is a good thing! Your story is taking a life of its own and will ultimately feel more realistic to the reader. Let it veer off and then steer it back on track. (Or let it take you into worlds unknown. You might end up with a better story than what you outlined!)


Ah, the pantsers. How I respect thee. You wake up on November 1st with only the fires of creativity within you, waiting to be set free. Some of you have a vague idea of what you want the story to be about, some of you jump straight in with nothing. That’s pretty impressive if you ask me.

Pantsers are the daredevils of the writing community. They’re the ones who scoff at outlines, feeling that planning a novel takes away from the fun of actually writing. They enjoy letting their story appear out of thin air, twisting and turning in ways that surprise them. The ones that begin with a vague idea in their head might find that their idea was simply a side story to a larger plot, and they explore that larger plot with the vigor of a creative genius.

Pantsing lends itself to intense writers blocks, however. Without an outline, beginning writers may find themselves lost and unsure of what to do. They may find that their story has a ton of plot holes and that some side characters simply disappeared from the narrative. This, of course, is a very easy fix: write through the writer’s block. If the scene you’re currently on is boring you, then add a brief description of what the scene is supposed to look like and move to the next scene. I usually find that this helps immensely. If your plot has plot holes, ignore them for now and keep writing! When you finally reach the end, then go back during revision and fix it all up.

In conclusion

Planning is essentially just that, pantsing is not planning. Simple! No matter what you choose to do, keep in mind that you’ve got a community. You aren’t alone, so make sure you reach out to your fellow pantsers and planners!

Now that you know the difference, are you going to plan or pants? Leave a comment below letting me know!

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