From Planner to Panster.


11/10/20220 min read

woman in blue long sleeve shirt using macbook pro
woman in blue long sleeve shirt using macbook pro

I’ve always been a meticulous planner.

Whenever I write, I first create a detailed structure. If I’m working on an article or case study, this outline will include headings; for creative writing, it’s usually a series of plot points or themes. Then, I write a loose description of each section, and, finally, I’ll sit down and write the piece.

My preparation for NaNoWriMo was no different. As recommended by my writing mentor, I used the Save the Cat structure (which was originally created for use in writing screenplays, though it’s been adapted for novels and widely used by authors of all genres).

I went into NaNo with a very thorough plan, which I promptly threw out the window. In NaNo speak, I went from being a "planner" to a "panster."

Under normal circumstances, this would absolutely terrify me. No plan? No outline? No direction? *insert Tina Belcher panicked hyperventilating*

But surprisingly, I’m having an absolute blast! It’s as if my characters are guiding the story, and they keep surprising me with new discoveries. Most recently, an unplanned, almost villainous character found their way onto my page. My protagonist also revealed several deep desires I had no idea she possessed.

All these surprises are the results of brain dumps.

Free writing is something I have a lot of experience with when it comes to journaling, but I’d never thought of doing it with fiction. However, when you simply let your mind wander and write whatever comes up as quickly as you can, what many of my author friends refer to as “writing sprints,” a lot of imaginative ideas come up to the surface. Some are silly, whereas some are downright clever. It’s also a great way to increase your word count for NaNo.

If you’re working on a fiction piece or would like to try your hand at fiction, I highly encourage you to engage in some free writing sprints. You’ll be surprised at what creative trouble your characters are just waiting to get into.