Before I started NaNoWriMo I explained how I wanted to use it to explore how I work as a writer; whether I work more efficiently from a detailed outline or just letting the story flow and evolve.

In the summer, writing Inyana for Camp NaNoWriMo, with no plan at all, I managed 30,000. This November, working to a fairly detailed outline, I wrote just over 15,000 words on Mime. This seems like fairly conclusive evidence in its own right, but I want to take a longer look at how my NaNo month went.

Yay, time for a really cool giant graph! (Click to expand)

A graph showing my word count over the course of November with annotations

Distractions, disasters and setbacks aside, I have to admit that I didn’t fight for it. I didn’t get that feeling I’ve had before when I’ve written a lot in a short period of time where I wake up in the morning and all I want to do is write the next scene and the next and the next.

The outline did not help in that respect. Writing felt less like exploration and more a matter of in painting. Okay, so the fleshing out brings the bare bones of the story to life, but it’s just not the same as watching it unfold under your fingers. What was worse, I found my creative instincts pulling me in different directions and I had to force myself to conform to the outline which felt counter intuitive and I expect may ultimately end up being counterproductive.

What have I learned?

Outlining seems to be a noble idea, but I don’t feel like I get on with it. It takes a lot of the fun and excitement out of writing for me. I think if I am going to use outlines I need to be loose and flexible with them; I need to leave myself room to explore, and if my creative instincts want to take the story in a different direction I need to adapt the outline to accommodate that.

I rebel against deadlines. Right now, if I set myself a target I will procrastinate. I never used to have a problem with stress affecting my work output but it seems things have changed. I need to work on finding my drive and enthusiasm again. I write because I love writing. If I’m putting it off or avoiding it then something is wrong.

I’ve had a lot of failures in my life these last couple of years and I’ve begun to forget that feeling of triumph that comes with meeting your goals. It’s no longer acting to motivate me and I need to work on getting that back. I need a reminder of how good it feels to succeed.

The Verdict

I like the idea of planning, but I don’t like the practice. It seems the side of my personality that likes planning things is not the side that is a writer. I can see a place for planning in my work, but creating a detailed, intricate outline before I start writing is not it.

I think the extra work in re-writing and editing a pantzed project, for me, outweighs the negative impacts of restricting myself to a detailed plan.

Therefore I embrace my true nature as a pantzer. From now on, planning and outlining will be minimal or take place after the first draft.

What about you?

Are you a pantzer or a plotter? I’m going to challenge some of my writer friends to do a little self reflection and choose a side. Look out for a future post! If you would like to display your allegiance with pride, feel free to copy the badges below:

Web badge - Proud Pantzer Web badge - Perfect Plotter