All the best laid plans… and all that…

Last night it was my intention to go to bed early. Well, you probably know what it is like… Before logging off, you have just one more quick peek at Facebook, Twitter… for you just never know… Although it resulted in me snuggling under the duvet some 20 minutes later than planned (you know… all the best laid plans, and all that…), I am still glad I had a peek at Twitter where I found a link to a fellow author’s blog, Hmmm… interesting! So, when I tootled off to my crypt, my head was buzzing with ideas, which, considering my brains tend to largely switch off at or around 6pm each evening, was pretty amazing. I fell asleep pondering what I’d be writing in my blog the next day. So, here I am.

My fellow author – I forgot his name, for which I apologise – had written about Planners and Pantsers. It is something which is regularly discussed – debated – amongst authors, and I’ve had a go at it, too.

For the uninitiated (lol), Planners are those authors who plan each and every book to the most minute detail. They treat it like a major military operation or like the security for a gathering of heads of state.  Days, weeks, perhaps months, of meticulous planning and research have preceded “lift off” day… which is the day they finally sit down at their computer and start writing. Rigidly they adhere to their formula, with each and every page, and every character’s actions totally and completely pre-planned. Character A will crack that joke on page 23. Character B will rush off in a hissy-fit on page 51. Character C will reveal him/herself as a cowardly and untrustworthy sod on page 97. Character A and B will have a right ding-dong of an argument on page 148. And characters A, B and C will come to a head to head on page 193, come hell or come high water. Because that is the way the “Planner” planned it, and thus it shall be.

If Planners want to adhere to this rigidity, and it works for them, then by all means, carry on. I can see some benefits to this method of working… but not entirely, as I find it takes away spontaneity. But, hey, that is me! We’re free to choose how we work. We’re free in what works best for us. So, that leaves the “Pantser”. As the word “pants” is involved, it’s obviously American… somehow the word trousers just doesn’t have the right ring to it, so pants or “Pantser” it is.

When I first heard the word “Pantser”, I obviously asked what the heck they were on about. But one lives and learns. It’s best described as “flying by the seat of one’s pants” or something like that. Anyway, I got the gist, and acknowledged that I largely was a “Pantser”. So, that means that, unlike the “Planner”, I do NOT plan any book until it has been thoroughly simmered, stewed or, let stand, well-done. My only planning is an idea, which I expand upon in my mind. I might pen down an idea here or there. But it usually is no more than a few words. For instance, I have a second book in mind for The Village Across the Bridge series, and all I have made note of is a name I rather fancied for a main character. The rest of the story is, largely, stored in my head… brains.

I’m largely a “Pantser”. Not 100%. For sometimes, I walk around with an idea in my mind for months, and I hone and fine tune it to a certain degree. So, when I sit down to write, I do so from what is stored in my brains. Of course I have some notebooks where I keep details of characters (names, age, what they look like, etc. but not in any detail), and of the names of market towns and villages I created, and more of such.

Although I may largely be a “Pantser”, I firmly believe in research, and google is one of my best friends. However, did we manage before the internet?? But that is entirely different story. For my first book (Vengeful Legal Deal) of the Belgravia Antiques Mysteries, I spent hours on google, amongst others, looking up information on famous antiques markets in and around London. I can hardly send my main characters off to Bermondsey Antiques Market at daybreak on a summer’s day, if the market only starts at 9 am. As it happens, knowing the antiques world, and their love of an early start, said market and traders do arrive and set up from about daybreak onwards, which suited the story. One Sunday, instead of writing, I was hours on google, researching markets, etc. Of course all that work will stand me in good stead in the next books in the series.

But despite all this, I am still largely a “Pantser”. I have an idea, and I start writing. I give my characters free rein, for as far as I’m concerned, they know best. When I start writing I know that I am starting at A and aiming to end at C or D. Even though I’m a believer in free rein, I do manage to gently nudge my characters from A to C, A to D, via B or C. But anything can happen in between!

In parting for today, I will add, that the above are two entirely different schools of thought. Neither is wrong, for both are right. But what is right for one may well be totally wrong for the other, and vice versa. That’s where the difference lies. Personally, I love the spontaneity and freedom of the “Pantser”, even though I may be only about 90 to 95% “Pantser”. I couldn’t cope with being a true “Planner”, even though I am about 5 to 10% “Planner”.  It’s all about what works best for us individually.

When I look back at all that I’ve written, and at the books that will be released across 2015, this “predominantly Pantser”, has often thought “all the best laid plans… and all that…” So, yeah, definitely a “Pantser”… largely… lol.

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