Planner or Pantser?
What a hot topic for the NaNosphere. The question showed up on a regular basis – do you plan out an outline for your novel or do you wing it and see where you end up? At first, I answered this question with a resounding, planner affirmative. As I started to plan, however, I noticed the strangest thing happening to me. The more I outlined, the more creatively frozen I felt. It was like all the excitement of watching the story come to life as I write it fell to the floor. I wasn’t writing anymore; I was just filling in the blanks. That’s when I smashed my head straight into writer’s block for the first time.
I had a complete outline, but couldn’t come up with what to write next. What’s up with that? It happened during the first book I had written before I prepared for the NaNoWriMo challenge. I started to panic a little thinking about how stuck I felt. What could be causing it? How could someone like me, a planner to the core, feel stifled by an outline? It didn’t make sense. Not until I realized that I had boxed up my characters and the story they needed to tell in my attempt to control everything. I wasn’t allowing the story to evolve with any organic movement.
For my next novel, the one I would write in November, I changed tactics. Instead of a full traditional outline, I used the three-act structure to prepare. It gave me the ability to know where I needed to be along the way but left it open to what happened. That cured me. My creative juices flowed unhindered, and my story took flight. I found that while I can never be a complete pantser, my OCD will not allow that, I have to be a plantser. I need a healthy combination of planning and free spirit. Whew, crisis averted!