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  • J. J. Hanna

Planning vs. Pantsing, Pros and Cons

Updated: Feb 24, 2020

It's the ultimate writing debate: are you a planner or a pantser?

I defined these terms in my last blog post, so if you missed it, make sure you go read it now.

As I mentioned before, I'm both a planner and a pantser. I write my first drafts in pantser mode, do a round of edits, and write the second draft in planner mode, with the pantsing option available. So I'm not an even split, but I use both.

Since I've used both methods, I figured I'd put together the pros and cons of each to help you as you decide how you want to try to write your novel (or other project).



  • Literary Freedom is yours, write whatever and however you want

  • You discover the story with the characters

  • The small details don't matter yet, put the goblet in but don't worry about making it significant until later (with the caveat that you must go back and make it significant if it's to be focused on in the beginning)

  • Introduce the characters you need when you need them/when you discover them

  • Have fun exploring your world!


  • Often, you won't have a clue where the story is going. This can be frustrating.

  • In editing, you'll likely have to go add in foreshadowing so the events later in the story flow inevitably from the beginning

  • You may end up with a bunch of pointless subplots (though, they were fun to write)

  • Some characters may not be necessary and in editing they'll have to be cut

  • When you hit a road block, killing a character only works so many times before you're either a. out of characters or b. predictable.



  • Depending on how specific your outline is, you know exactly where you're going and when you'll get there

  • If someone asks when you'll have your novel finished, you can generally give them a date

  • You can watch yourself make progress through your outline

  • Because you've thought the story through ahead of time, editing should be easier

  • You can have cool displays of your novel on your wall before it actually exists

  • You can foreshadow as you write and not have to add it in later


  • When hit with a block, occasionally the entire outline needs rethought and reworked

  • If you stray off the outline, you can feel pressured to get back onto the outline, even if it's not what's best for the story

  • A studied reader will be able to guess what comes next, if it follows a regular structure

  • There's less opportunity for your characters to surprise you with moments you hadn't planned for

No matter how you choose to write, write well. As we approach NaNoWriMo, I hope you're getting ready to write a novel. Speaking of NaNoWriMo, this blog will be on break during November to allow for more time for working on my novel. If things go as planned, I'll see you next week and then again in December! Happy writing!


J. J. Hanna is a Professional Writing major at Taylor University. In her spare time she makes Youtube Videos and Comics, and practices Karate at a local dojo. If you have a writing question, she'd love to hear from you! Reach out to her on the contact page. She is also looking for freelancing work, so if you have editing, beta reading, or writing needs, please let her know.

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