I’m a Road Mapper: On Pantsing and Planning

I want to talk about the age-old Pantsing vs. Planning debate. I never heard the term until I started getting involved with NaNoWriMo a few years back. Then, it was today that I decided I really didn’t like either of those terms. I don’t really identify either and here’s why.

For the past couple of years I’ve been posed the question, “Are you a pantser or a planner?” a number of different ways. From tag videos I’ve done on my YouTube channel, to the ominous question in a writer article I was reading, it was there. Choosing between the two is actually really hard for me.

I’m definitely not a pantser. I have so many unfinished MS in my laptop to prove I can’t just “wing it” and produce a beginning, middle, and end. Winging it lets me make a bomb beginning. Which is then followed with a “I think I’m in the middle but I don’t know how I got here and I don’t know what to do now.” This results in a no ending for me.

So… not a pantser.

I guess that means I’m a planner?

When I think of outlining, I think of the outlining I did in high school. A super organized document that you know, uses the I, II, III with the a. b. c. within each of those Roman numerals.

And then I think of how I outlined Through Villains and Wolves, my Red Riding Hood retelling, and that was outlined on one piece of paper, front and back, with bullet points ranging from, “this happens” and “then this happens” to, “it ends something kind of like this… maybe?!” I felt like this wasn’t really a true “Planner” persona. Especially since as I write, I fill in way more than that two-page bullet pointed piece of paper. I’ve said this in other videos of mine that my “outlining” consists of me bullet pointing scenes that are major plot points and then as I write I have more room to do what I want with always knowing what I am working towards with said bullet points. With this, I often come up with subplots, characters, places, and more scenes that were never in my original outline. That doesn’t seem like planning either? It kind of seems like maybe I am winging it?

I did the same thing when outlining Sharp Hollows, my current WIP. Major plot points mentioned so I can fill in the between spaces with things that come to my head organically – the surprises, if you will.

So if I don’t fall into either of those categories, what do I call myself? And maybe it’s because I don’t really like the “pantser” and “planner” terms but there is no way I’m calling myself a planster or a panner because those aren’t even fun to say.

I like to think of myself as a road mapper.

The analogy is exactly like if you’re planning a road trip. You have your starting point. You also have you ending point — whether you know the ending to your project is debatable, but you at the very least probably have an idea of where the end is. You also have all those little stops along the way. Sights you want to see, what hotel you’re staying at for one night, etc. But then you have those unplanned pit stops along the way. The gas station with the gross bathrooms you have no choice in, but need to fill up your car. Then there’s a sign stating “Biggest Candy Store Next Exit!” that you had no idea existed and have to go check out. Those are all unplanned or spontaneous stops along the way.

That’s why I feel like I am when I’m writing first drafts: a road mapper. I know the stops that will get me there, but I’m along for the ride and willing to pull off at the next exit when something catches my eye.

What about you guys? How do you approach a new writing project?

3 thoughts on “I’m a Road Mapper: On Pantsing and Planning

  1. I plot in a pretty similar way. It’s difficult to know exactly where you’re going to end up when you start plotting so I end up changing a lot of stuff but if I do no plotting then it ends up in a massive mess.


  2. @samharnold says:

    I love this definition I have also struggled with the; do I plan or just go for it question. Different authors I admire have different techniques so this didn’t help much. Your definition is much better. I am now a road mapper lol.

    Change of subject completely, but have you looked at the social site Litsy I heard your comments about Goodreads on one of your vlogs and think you would like the relaxed nature of Litsy.


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