Are you a pantser or a planner? Setting writing goals for the year ahead

Pantser or planner?

One of the greatest questions posed by the wonderful Sara Bailey during my time at uni has stuck with me over the years: are you a panster, or a planner? Do you plan every element of your story, or do you see where the journey will take you and jump in both feet first?

Whilst her talk was on writing horror fiction, the sentiment can be held true for any number of things. Although I’m a planner (sometimes to my own detriment) when it comes to my fiction and non-fiction writing, I have an awful habit of overthinking bigger projects across my life, letting them fizzle to a close long before they truly have the chance to see the light of day.

The year of the blog

Case and point: 2018 was the year of the blog for me. I planned over a dozen. I fully prepared a good half a dozen, and launched at least four. None of them lasted longer than a month.

Each has its own merits. Each could have been something I remained passionate about over a prolonged period of time. Yet for some reason, I didn’t. 

The pressure of all of that research started getting to me. I couldn’t put all of that time and effort to waste; yet I couldn’t possibly live up to my own expectations, to the bar I’d set myself that loomed above me, an ever daunting shadow over my work.

No matter how much I would get done, it didn’t feel like enough. Even if I had been able to meet my own ever-changing goalposts for ‘success’, it still wouldn’t have been enough. Why? Because I wasn’t acknowledging that real big goal. That real, huge, overwhelming, unwieldily desire that underpinned everything.

Identifying your real goal(s)

Behind the hundreds of un-pitched articles and half-written blogs, beneath the dozens of started fanfictions and short story competition entries, lay two overwhelming desires: 

  1. To obtain a PhD in Creative Writing
  2. To become published 

I write this, as I force myself to put aside my notes on ‘how to launch an erotica series in just six months’ (a genre I have never before shown any interest in), close my documents on a half-baked blog on autism spectrum condition, self-care and wellbeing, and click away from the Writer and Artists website competition page. 

Starting new projects is easy. The initial excitement, the joy of planning, that feeling of being overflowing with ideas and passion — that’s easy to enjoy, to jump in with both feet and wave goodbye to old projects. But what does this really achieve in the long run?

Countless could-have-beens and almosts, that you may never return to. I know I haven’t.

That’s why, for me, this year is going to be a year of change. It’s time I reign in the planner in me, and begin embracing the panster.

2019 goals…

  1. Maintain GoodReads book reviews and recommendations for 2019 (Goal: 25 books). As of mid-January, I’m already over 1/5 into my goal, but I’m making myself stick to it. No adjusting, no new big, lofty goals; it’s time to just see how things go. If I surpass it? Great! In the meantime, it’s just about disciplining myself to set smaller, more realistic goals I can stick to.
  2. Launch and maintain this little catch-all blog for reviews, creative writing articles, prompts, advice, and documenting my general journey through getting back in the writing groove.
  3. Complete the first draft of my manuscript. I’ve had one particular idea – just a kernel of one, really – floating around in my head for nearly a decade. It’s time to stop finding excuses and jump in, head-first.

What are your writing goals for the next 12 months? Whether you’re looking to work on a blog, create short stories, finish a fanfiction series, pitch non-fiction articles, or finalise your novel, I’d love to hear how you plan to make the next year one of action and positive change.


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Author: Bonnie Evie Gifford

*waves* I'm a writer and blogger from the not so sunny south coast of England. With bylines in Happiful Magazine, Harness Magazine, as well as on Counselling , Therapy, and Lifecoach Directories, I write about books, mental health, wellbeing, autism, and culture. When not writing, I can be found partially buried under a stack of books, hiding from the outside world. Find me lurking on Twitter: https://twitter.com/begifford

1 thought on “Are you a pantser or a planner? Setting writing goals for the year ahead

  1. I started as a pantser but then I learned I needed to plot, at least some. Now I think I may be a a little be of both. For this year I want to finish editing my first MS and find an agent! Good luck with your goals. Looking forward to you reviews and your updates on your MS progress:)

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