Creative Nottingham logo
Creative Nottingham logo
Artwork by Patrick DolanMore Information

Planner or pantser?

Inspiration - scattered before glueing...

Previous posts on this site have explored where people find inspiration for their creativity and how they use it. My inspiration is usually to be found scattered on bits of paper and notebooks around the house and in my handbag. This weekend I tried to make a concerted effort to sort all the bits out and store them where they might prove useful. Much glueing ensued. 

My inspiration (for writing) comes from pictures, news stories and general flummery that comes to me as I walk to work each day. I also find it really helpful to read blogs and quotes from other writers about how they write. That is why, this weekend, I came across an article by Alan Baxter that divides writers into planners and pantsers. As you may guess planners work everything out first, plot, characters, setting, style etc while pantsers are those who start out with a brief sketch and write by the seat of their pants.

I’m a pantser. For novel writing. For short stories I’m more of a planner. Well less a planner and more of a ponderer. Anyway, while I was reading this it occurred to me that writing must be one of the few creative arts that you have the option of being a pantser. Many things – graphics, gaming, photography, knitting – need planning or it just won’t work. So the creativity comes in the very early stages when you work out what you want to do and then in the skill you apply to create what you want.

When writing my novel part of the fun was discovering the things I’d make my characters do and say that I didn’t know about until I typed them. It’s a crime novel and I didn’t even know who had been killed until I wrote the scene where the detective sees the body for the first time. PD James, on the other hand, plots everything meticulously before then writing the book (in longhand no less, what an impressive lady she must be.) For me the act of writing itself sparks the creativity I need to create – does that make sense? It doesn’t matter if the plot contradicts itself while I write – the writing is the important thing. Everything else can be sorted out in the later drafts. In many ways the later drafts are harder for me because I’ve got to apply logic and sense to the mish mash of story that has just flowed from my fingers.

So I’m curious and I’d like to hear from you. Which creative arts give you the option to be a pantser? Can you or do you create by the seat of your pants? Or are you a planner? Let us know.