Planners versus ‘Free Spirits’

Word Count: 6300

So, as you all know I’m currently participating in a virtual writing camp (NaNoWriMo April). In Camp NaNo, if you want to, you are assigned a cabin with four other people. A virtual cabin of course. It took me three cabins, but I have finally landed in one that I like, i.e. one in which people talk to each other. And with ‘talk’, I mean virtual talk, again. 😉 One of the issues that came up this week was whether we are planners or free spirits. Here’s a quick definition if case you are unsure what the difference is.

Planners are the people who actually prepare themselves before they start writing. Sometimes up to three months in advance, you will see them busy making notes and schedules and schemes and maps. Closer to the start of the event, they will know exactly how many chapters their novel is going to have, and can show you a chapter-to-chapter summary of their novel (this will save them time when they start querying agents and are asked for a synopsis 😉 ). And when the actual writing begins, they will simply write out everything they already came up with. You will most likely recognise them by either the whiteboard/blackboard next to their writing desk, or a carefully arranged trail of post-its on their laptop, desk, walls and keyboard.

‘Free spirits’
A free spirit writer (or a plunger) is just about the opposite of the planner. When asked about their plot, a free spirit will most likely be announcing, happily, that they haven’t got a clue yet. Even a day before they start writing, this is their most likely answer. Unless, of course, they have come up with a cool character, vague idea of a problem someone might be having, or half a world for the story to take place in. During the writing phase, free spirits will frequently tell you – with glistering eyes – what a wonderfully unexpected thing just happened in their novel. The novel they are writing themselves, yes.

So, planners and free spirits. When I look at the writers that I know (of), both published and unpublished, I would say they are divided about 50/50. Half of them plan, the other half don’t. Now here’s what I have been wondering about: Does writing style match life style? In other words: can a writer who plans his novel to be expected to plan his life, too? And does a writer who plunges into his novel also plunge into his life?

I recently read an article on Writer’s Digest that simply assumed that this is the case. Planners plan everything, plungers plan nothing. But is that true? Because for me, it certainly is not. My writing style is to have a very basic, very vague idea of a plot, and then see how it develops as I write. And yes, I am frequently exhilarated because my character did something I didn’t expect! Just yesterday, my character Reese from The Grand Asylumturned out to be paperback writer. He writes women’s romance for a living. And I had no idea until it was there on the paper.
So what’s my point? My point is that in my daily life, I am a total control freak. Planning is what I do best! I plan everything and I get miserable if there is too much uncertainty. Don’t believe me? Let me show you a random week in my diary:

Photo on 09-04-13 at 16.14

See? I write down everything I’m going to do on a day, and then I cross it out when I have completed the task. I could show you various other lists I make. I love lists. 🙂

So for me at least, my writing style does not correspond to my life style. How is that for you? What is your writing style and does it correspond to your attitude in life? I would love to hear it!

6 responses to “Planners versus ‘Free Spirits’

  1. Ik vind het nogal zwart/wit geredeneerd. Ik zit er ergens tussenin. Ja, de verhalen schrijven zichzelf (ik beleef ze) maar omdat ik ze in mijn hoofd al heb beleefd, weet ik dus al ongeveer hoe het gaat. Maar tijdens het condenseren van de rijke wereld in mijn hoofd naar ‘het geschrevene’ toe, onstaan er allerlei nieuwe scenes, grijze gedeeltes vullen zichzelf in met andere belevenissen etc. Tegelijkertijd maak ik ook een heleboel aantekeningen, vooral ook tijdens het schrijven, en als ik geen woorden heb voor de scenes in mijn hoofd, maak ik er een tekening van en probeer daarna de tekening met woorden te beschrijven. Dus ik weet van te voren de hoofdlijnen en wat voor plot-ontwikkelingen ik erin wil hebben, maar veel vult zichzelf in en soms gaat mijn verhaal opeens met mijn van te voren bedachte plot aan de haal en loopt het allemaal heel anders af… that’s the fun of it. Dus niet het een of het ander, maar gewoon van allebei wat.

  2. Hey Suzie, dan ben je toch echt wel een free spirit en niet een planner! Een planner schrijft van tevoren op (op papier) wat er in elk hoofdstuk gebeurt en houdt zich daar vervolgens aan. Dat doe jij niet, hoewel je er natuurlijk wel van tevoren over nadenkt. Wat jij doet, en dat doe ik zelf ook, is ‘denken door te schrijven’ en dat is echt het free spirit type. 🙂

    • Cewl! Dan ben ik een free spririt. Maar met hulp van wat planning idd. Vooral tijdens het schrijven, want je wilt wel onthouden wat je al geschreven hebt, zodat de dingen niet 2x gebeuren…

  3. I totally agree that we pansters plan to SOME degree, even if it’s only internally. After all those of who who are free spirits while writing but planners in life can’t break the planning habit entirely. I’m so glad you directed me to this post and to your blog! 🙂

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