Since I’ve entered the writing world this past year, I’ve learned several new terms, three of which include pantser, plotter, and planster.
Pantser means to “fly by the seat of your pants,” with no clue where the story is going until the words land on the page.
A plotter plans every detail of the story and knows each plot point, including how the story will end.
The planster is a combination of the two—she kind of has a general idea where the story will go and develops the main character and story arcs, but still finds surprises along the way.
When I jumped into Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) last November, I had brainstormed potential scenarios that my characters might face and had some thoughts on the climax and turning points, but no concrete plans on where the story would go until tapping out the words on the page.
This is not my norm. I’ve always been a planner. Just ask my husband. The word spontaneous doesn’t belong in the same sentence with my name. So, for me to sit down and write an entire novel by the seat of my pants was quite a feat. After three months, I’d written 120,000 words and had a mess to clean up, which I’ve been scrubbing on ever since.
Last week at the Mountainside Novelist Retreat, I learned that unless a novel is historical, or set in current day, it’s a hard sell. That means I need to revise my story set in the 90s to modern day. The pantser path hasn’t worked well for me thus far. I’ve learned I need to spend more time on research and learn the industry preferences before I spend so many months on something I will have to change.
This past weekend at our ladies church event, I was a pantser with the craft project. After explaining the guidelines for the pumpkin painting contest and squirting blobs of paint on fifteen ladies paper plates, I sat down in front of my pumpkin with no idea what to create. Without a plan, you can see from the picture below, the whole pantser idea didn’t work for me in this situation either. Although it’s kind of fun to be surprised rather than know the end result.
Maybe some people can be spontaneous and enjoy a great outcome—like my granddaughter, Kylie, who won Most Creative for her Spongebob pumpkin.
But what about our relationship with God? Can we fly by the seat of our pants and hope to have intimacy with Him and know His plans for our lives? Or should we strategically plan out our spiritual walk each day and approach our growth with a personal mission statement and a detailed agenda that supports our plan?
What does God’s Word recommend?
Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil. James 4:13-16
“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9
“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away.” Luke 14:28-32
Are you confused by these seemingly opposite approaches laid out in the Bible? I believe what we see here is the beautiful dance between being responsible and making plans and allowing God the right to change our plans.
I believe this is the description of a planster. To think about and pray through the options, make a wise plan, then step back and watch God mold and shape the idea into something even more amazing than we could ever imagine. We must have intentionality in our walk with God or we won’t grow. But we can become so rigid and legalistic in our traditions and spiritual exercises we miss out on the beauty of God’s spontaneity in our lives.
I plan to become a planster in my future writing projects … and in my relationship with God. How about you?
Join the conversation. Are you a planner by nature? Or do you prefer to live spontaneously? Do you have a laid out plan for your spiritual growth? Has God ever changed your original plans and led you to something better? If so, will you share it in the comments so we can all be encouraged?