Planning Vs. Seat-of-Your-Pants Writing Online Debate

Hello, everyone!

I would first like to draw your attention to the right, where a count of all my followers lies. We’re currently at 104. Plus, there have been a steady stream of people that have been regularly liking my posts. A few of these: theryanlanz, humanity777, and more.

I’d like to thank all of you for your support, but ask just a bit more of you, and those others who are interested. I’d like to form an online debate on the benefits of planning for your writing versus writing by the seat of your pants.

A popular opinion towards planning for your writing is that it disallows creativity and creates stiff writing. Lenghts of planning change according to author. Some plan only the first few chapters, and some plan more with more pages than in their actual manuscript.

Writing by the seat of your pants is just a fancy way of saying “writing without any planning.” Many say this inspires creativity, but some believe that it will bring in dead ends, loopholes, and impossibilities such as an unsolvable climax.

My job for you is to leave a sentence or two, or a paragraph of whatever length, saying why one of these methods are better than the other. Leave your thoughts in the comments. I’ll leave this post up for a while, reminding you about it in some later posts, until we have at least a few opinions. I’ll compile them into a post so readers can form their own opinion whether planning or pants-writing is better.

Thank you!


10 responses to “Planning Vs. Seat-of-Your-Pants Writing Online Debate

  1. Writing by the seat of your pants is so much better. One of the prime reasons that this is true is that you experience what the character is experiencing. For example, how can you portray a character’s fear if you know that they are going to be all right? How can you simulate the unknown if you all ready know what lurks beyond? It is important that your story is suspenseful, and too much planning makes your writing seem too structured and predictable. It’s okay to have a general idea for your beginning, climax, and resolution, but that is all I recommend for an unpredictable, dangerous, and very real story.

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  2. So, I actually write kind of in a happy ground in between seat-of-your-pants and outlining. Brooke does this as well. Not sure about Brenna. xD She is always the wild card of awesomeness 😉 But, my general tactic is to create a tentative outline, get a rough idea of what’s going to happen in each chapter, set a goal word count, and then begin to write. If I think a new chapter needs to be interjected, or removed, or completely redirected, then I change the outline to reflect that. I create my outlines to give me a good starting point and then I make the dive after that. I’m not held down by a strict plan, but I’m also not leaving home without a map (or handkerchief). So, I guess my thoughts overall are get a good mix of both, but that’s what works for me. It changes from person to person. 🙂 Great topic to bring up! There are a lot of opinions out there 😉 God bless!

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  3. I don’t think there’s a right answer to the question. Each approach can work and work well for different authors. I am a staunch Outliner, and I’m very detailed. It works for me. Without it, the writing process takes ten times as long. The misunderstanding of outlining is that some feel outlining takes away the spontaneity of the scene. That doesn’t need to be true at all. My outlining process is full of just as much crazy SURPRISE stuff is any seat of the pants story. After all, creating the outline of the story really is just seat of the pant in miniature. You create the outline as you go. Sometimes, I allow a month or more for the outlining process, and in that way, I have plenty of fun with creation. 😀

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  4. Great topic for discussion. I’ve done both and settled somewhere in the middle; yet I know authors who are successful in both extremes.

    Writing by the seat of my pants is super fun, exciting, and you’re just as surprised as the characters are; the downside is I tend to write more “plot-based” work instead of “character-based” work, so things feel thin. I then have to do a lot of re-writing as I think of things later on that need to be threaded back into the book to make it feel “beefier.”

    Writing completely planned makes for great layers and intentional conflicts, but tends to take the joy out of it for me. I don’t feel surprised, and thus I don’t believe the reader is as surprised either.

    My middle ground is “planning to be surprised.” In other words, I know where my characters need to start, and where I want them to end up; I also have scaled various arcs and events that will press them toward that goal. But much of the details need to be fleshed out in the moment. I also spend more time pre-visualizing the characters (traits, character, tendencies, habits) which then inform me as to how they’ll respond when something comes up that I throw at them.

    I guess you could say my current approach is to truly know my characters (planned on the front end) and then watch (write spontaneously) as I plunge them into conflict.

    Happy writing, all!

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  5. I’ve tried both and never gotten far when using either extreme. I’ve always had to fit somewhere in between to write well. Spontaneous writing is tons of fun for me, but (at least when I’m writing by myself) I tend to feel like it’s awesome as I write it, but when I come back to it later it seems wimpy and lame.

    When I plan my writing, however, I tend to overdo it. I can’t just make a general outline, I have to plan every little detail or else when I start writing I improvise to the extent that my outline isn’t even for the same story anymore. While that may not be bad, I’ve never gotten to that point and NOT felt discouraged. If, however, I do plan out every detail, the writing just isn’t fun. I can’t use my cool ideas that I have while I’m writing.

    Something interesting I’ve noticed is that the same doesn’t apply when I’m writing with someone else. In that case, the other person’s perspective really gives me better ideas than I otherwise would have without planning, and I can develop them faster and create much better scenes than either of us would have were we working alone. When we plan together, we both have different ideas of where the story should go and when, so any outline we create ends up much more flexible than what I would have made on my own. I would definitely rather write with someone than by myself!

    So, I guess I would say that I can plan my writing, but I have to be flexible. (It’s also worth pointing out that no amount of planning is going to redeem a plot that was lame from the beginning, something that has happened to me more than once.) Sorry for the super long reply, Harry, but you asked for it.

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  6. Like Sarah, I stand on middle ground. I usually spend many days thinking and writing down ideas (usually set to music or whatever happened to inspire the original idea to begin with), developing an outline, and then wrecking said outline! I have found that the longer I spend on pre-writing the less I usually have to tear things apart. Sometimes I get halfway through a book, like my current project, realize it could be better and gut most of it, leaving only a couple chapters here and there. The only bad thing about writing by the seat of your pants is that if you change something in the middle of the story, you must remember what you did! Sarah and I forgot a lot of little details when writing Wilderquest and as a result we had a jumbled pile of unfulfilled dragon prophecies and the like. My level of organization varies (I wrote all during NaNoWriMo 2013 without a book title…it drove me crazy!), but I at least have an outline and leave space in that outline to jot down new ideas if they come. And take the outline everywhere…which is why it has marks all over it and has places where it has gotten ripped, crumpled, etc.
    Thank you for the opportunity to write! I apologize for taking so long to respond!

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