NaNoWriMo: Pantser vs Plotter

The NaNoWriMo season is upon us. Next month will be Preptober and then in November, writers from around the world will attempt to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) and write 50k words in just 30 days.

Crazy right? National Novel Writing Month has been around for years. In fact, the very first NaNoWriMo started back in 1999. Now it has thousands upon thousands of writers trying their hand at 50,0000 words in November.

I’ve tried my hand at NaNo for over a decade myself, doing my first in high school. There have been many years I haven’t won. Most of the years I haven’t, but it doesn’t mean it’s not a great challenge.

This year I’m attempting to outline and plot my entire novel. I’ve not really been known to do that. I’m usually a pantser. Or in some rare cases plantser (someone who plots just a tiny bit). If you’re confused about what each are, let me explain.


Woman typing on computer provided by Andrew Neel

A pantser is someone who just goes in with maybe a spark of an idea and a few characters and nothing else. The first time they put their story in to words is when they type out chapter one.

I tend to lean this way. I think about my idea and a vague plot and just go for it. It has it’s pros and cons.

Pros: you get to feel out your story naturally, your creativity gets to flow. You don’t have to do any prep time and spend hours not actually writing your novel.

Cons: you have no idea what is happening. Your story can meander and never get completed. You can get discouraged when it comes to revising the story.


Planning on a whiteboard provided by Kaleidico

A plotter is someone who will know everything that will happen in the story. They know chapter by chapter what is going to happen. They are the ones with an outline prepped weeks in advance, ready to write on November 1st with the entire story planned out.

Pros: You know the story. There’s no time to be confused about what might happen because you’ve already prepped for this. You can jump around in chapters when you have writer’s block because you know what each chapter is.

Cons: it can stifle the creative process. You have spent so much time planning everything, you might not want to move forward. It seems tedious and more like work than a fun creative process.

Versus: Which is better?

I don’t think there’s a real answer to that. When it comes to NaNo specifically, both techniques have won NaNo for multiple people over the years. You are going to have to find a balance of what works for you. If you pants this year and don’t win, try plotting next time. Or do a mix called plantsing where you make yourself a loose outline and know a few things before going in, but allow for changing as time goes on.

Let me know in the comments below which type of NaNo-er you are, and any tips you have for fellow writers to tackle on either technique.

Also, stick to this blog as next month comes up. I plan to have some minor Preptober posts that might help those who plan to be a plantser!

5 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo: Pantser vs Plotter

  1. Rebecca says:

    I’m usually a pantser but this year I’m doing some outlining. I still won’t have everything planned out but I’m hoping it will help a bit. Good luck with your planning!

Leave a Reply