The different methods entailed in the creative writing process. A freelancer guide to outlining, pantsing, and plantsing. – The Urban Writers

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Delving Deep into Planning, Pantsing, and Plantsing

by The Urban Writers

As an author, you may either choose to have the entire journey mapped out, making note of each turn based on the distance traveled, or you may choose to let the road and instincts guide your path. Lastly, you may decide to have a general idea of the direction you intend to head and chart the rest of the course as you go along.

Does the route taken on the journey matter? Or is arriving the only thing that truly counts? It all depends on what drives the traveler. We have all been in situations where we're riding shotgun, and the person driving makes a turn; we immediately think of an alternate route that could have lessened the distance and avoided a lot of traffic. 

It is human nature to want to plot our course; even when someone else is driving, we can't help feeling compelled to map the entire route, and if the person driving allows, provide directions as well. 

Yet, there are circumstances where we don't opt for the most efficient, rather we are driven by what inspires us. I had a similar circumstance where I chose process over practicality. During my commute from work, I would drive a few miles out of the way to help with unwinding after a long day of working and living in an overly developed city. This area, with its lush vegetation, cool, crisp air, and scenic views, serves as an oasis that provides a mental reset after a hectic day.

I'm sharing these two contrasting scenarios to introduce the different writing methods that may be utilized, both of which bring their own merits and, when appropriately utilized, will result in the intended result. 

A significant aspect of any creative process is being in the right frame of mind and feeling confident that you're on the right path. How that is achieved varies, some writers prefer the freedom to let their creativity flow, while others prefer the structure that creating an outline provides, while a combination of both methods may be the preferred choice for some. This article is intended to help guide you on which is your ideal creative writing process.

Writing Process

Discovering the method of writing that works best for you and fine-tuning your creative process may be the deciding factor between struggling to write and producing subpar work or creating masterpieces that propel you on your path to being a flourishing author.

Before you begin, the decision should have already been made regarding the ng process you will attempt to use. Attempt is the operative word because should it be realized that the chosen strategy does not heed significant results the only plausible course of action is to attempt another.

This is achieved through constantly monitoring your progress throughout the project, not only concerning the quantity being created but also the quality of the content. The observations that are made by the writer should help to determine which process is an ideal fit based on specific elements such as genre and length.

The required information cannot be ascertained from a single project; it will take gathering data from multiple projects from different genres with contrasting word counts. Diligently recording how you manage each stage of a multitude of projects using different methods should provide a fair amount of data to review.

Decoding your process for writers is a painstaking task that requires meticulous observation and a lot of trial and error. The diverse genres and subgenres that freelance authors associated with The Urban Writers will specialize in all have unique traits that make a singular approach to every possible project type impractical.

Outlining

Outlining, also called plotting, is the process of creating a detailed overview or a plan for the content you are about to write. An outline may be developed for any of the literary forms, including books, essays, and articles.

Outlining helps to set a clear path for constructing the material you intend to write. This plan will include all the major components of a story, namely the setting, plot, characters, conflict, and resolution spread across the chapters of the book to reflect the storytelling progression of introducing the characters and their plight at the start, the struggles at the mid-section and resolution at the end.

With non-fiction, the outline will be more focused on the sources for the information being included in the book, as a major part of the outline will be providing research material for the writer. 

The complexity of an outline varies, however the more meticulous the outline the more intricate the writer can make the elements of the book. Having a clear vision of the direction from the start means less time will be spent focusing on the construction of the bones which may then be spent embellishing the cosmetics.

Having an outline is critical for ghostwriters as it ensures that all parties involved are in one accord. An outline is the only means of effectively stating what topics the book is expected to address and what the desired outcome is. When an outline exists it lessens the chances of a misunderstanding between the freelancer and the client.

Pantsing

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Pantsing, or as it's more formally known, "discovery writing." allows authors to utilize a more creative approach as there are no predetermined narratives, characters, or outcomes. The writer may start with the notion that they wish to write about a particular genre and subgenre, for example, an action thriller, and start with a scene, and as you create, you develop all the elements such as characters, scenes, and plots.

This is the truest form of creativity, as there are no restrictions or limitations on the direction you can head in; as ideas are manifested, they are included. The fluidity or cohesiveness is not the main concern while composing, with pantsing you should expect to do an extensive amount of editing once the first draft is complete.

Pantsing does not mean adding irrational or unfounded information, particularly with non-fiction. There will still be a requirement for the information included to be factual; however, instead of having the topics for each chapter mapped out from the start, you will likely structure as you write, including information you find pertinent during research.


Plantsing

As suggested by the play on words combining plotting and pantsing, planting" is a combination of both writing processes. How the combination of both processes works is that instead of going into the details of the book from start to finish as you would with an outline or beginning without a determined direction as you would while using the pantsing method. You will start with a brief idea of the direction the book is intended to go in, and as written elements are added based on the ideas you come up with while composing.

While there is an intended direction at the inception of authoring with plantsing, this does not prevent the writer from changing course at any point throughout the book. The spontaneous nature of pantsing that encourages the flow of creativity is vital. However, the structured inefficiency of plotting that is meant to increase the likelihood that you will be able to see the book through to completion is also a valuable factor. It, however, does not restrict the writer's ability to identify potential ways to improve by adding elements that were not originally included in the outline.

Plantsing is less spontaneous because, despite how vague it may be at the start of the book, there is a desired outcome that the plotting aspect has put in place. Still, the pantsing element allows you to write whatever new idea comes along, given that you stay within that realm.

Pros and Cons of Writing Approaches

The fact that there needs to be an assessment of these processes to determine which is best is proof that they are not without faults. Making an informed decision regarding which to utilize means being aware of and accepting the good with the bad and, if possible, finding methods of modifying the process to alleviate the negative aspects or negate it altogether.

Plantsing is the intended solution that takes the beneficial elements of both planning and plotting to create a process that is an ideal fit based on your strengths and limitations as an author. Being able to select which elements from both of the processes you would like to incorporate in your preferred methodology means that, firstly, you must be aware of them. So, let us explore the pros and cons of both methods.


Pros and Cons of Outlining

Pros

  • It remains consistent; it is less likely to veer off-topic or have inconsistencies in plot or character development as there is a reference available to provide clear directions.
  • More determined writing; the details having been thought out and addressed in the outline allows the focus to be placed on creating content, reducing the length of time spent authoring.
  • The ability to plan ahead makes it possible to set complex twists in the storyline and insert gems that are realized many chapters after it's first introduced.

Cons

  • Restricts the writer's freedom to include new ideas, particularly for freelancers who have been provided with a directive that must be adhered to and have the final draft aligned with.
  • Potential for procrastination as a result of overthinking due to a need to cover all the bases and include every conceivable element from the get-go, the sense of something being missing will prevent the writer from feeling confident enough to start.

Pros and Cons of Pantsing

Pros

  • Authoring with the assurance that there are no creative limitations encourages freedom to think outside the box and embrace new ideas.
  • Allowing the details to develop during the creative process will result in a more natural and unique story than if it had been predetermined.
  • Experiencing the story unfolding while composing can increase the passion felt for the book, resulting in a zeal for the creative process.

Cons

  • Because of the spontaneity of this method, there are a lot of errors being made throughout the writing process that will require extensive editing.
  • Having to research while penning content may cause the process to be slow and drawn out. The information included will also require extensive revision to verify its validity.
  • You are likely to go off-topic as a result of not having a clear direction mapped out.
  • The absence of a conclusion causes uncertainty regarding how to close out the book.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Question: Are writers required to adhere to a single writing process during a project?

Answer: Writers may choose to utilize either of the processes or a mixture of both during a project.

Question: What are the different methods associated with the writing process? 

Answer: The methods are outlining/plotting, pantsing/discovery writing, and plantsing.

Question: What is the definition of outlining/plotting?

Answer: The listing of ideas in an organized manner that provides an overview and detailed description for a written project such as an essay or book.

Question: What is the definition of pantsing/discovery writing?

Answer: commence authoring without a predetermined direction and fill in the details of characters, settings, and plot as the story progresses.

Question: what is the definition of plantsing?

Answer: A combination of outlining/plotting and pantsing/discovery writing that serves to take the best aspects of both and apply them to a process that allows the writer to have a brief notion of what to write while still being able to add new ideas.

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