First of all, I have to get it off my chest that I really hate the term “pantser.” However, it seems to be the term in the literary world to describe the kind of writer I am–one who sits down at the computer and miraculously spins out chapter after chapter, never looking at an outline. It is a rather horrifying concept, when one thinks about it too much. How I don’t get lost in it all is beyond me, at times. However, it is the way I innately write; it always has been, even when I wrote literary critical analysis in college. To someone like me, the structuring of an outline brings a stricture of panic into the chest and usually an onset of acute writer’s block.
However, sometimes plotting is necessary. I have found it just as challenging to adhere to my pantser instincts during my sequel novel, Inductance, as I find it to sit down and create an outline. It is quite necessary to have somewhat of a plan for Inductance as it is so action-packed. When writing something action-packed, the structure must be so tight and riveting, that an outline is very helpful. Writing down what is going to happen next and who will be involved in it helps tighten up loose ends and bring all the elements together.
I would not be true to my ill-named pantser status if I did not do at least some of my writing on a whim–it’s simply what I am most comfortable with, and some of my best prose just spills off my fingertips when I let them get carried away. Thus, I reached a compromise for hopefully the remainder of Inductance. I have outlined some key plot points that I know need to happen. While running on my treadmill yesterday, I brainstormed them, then I made myself sit and physically write them out (an anathema for pantsers). Now I think I have achieved a great balance–my mind still has some creative freedom as it is not too hemmed in by the outline, but the need for some structured framework has been settled. So now I can be a pantser operating within a plot–I think it will work out beautifully!
5 thoughts on “Plotting as a Pantser”
You go girl! I’m also a “pantser” (I mean, could they have come up with a less flattering name?), but I’m finding that broad-stroke outlines are helping me keep a clear picture on what exactly I’m trying to do. It started as just writing down ideas for books further down the line to get them out of my head, but then I started organizing it and outlines began to form… but since they’re rather written in “pantser” style, I’m not sure they’re really outlines. 😉
I feel a bit traitorous to my pantser (sigh) nature, but outlines really do help! As long as they don’t have too many details–those are best saved for the writing itself! 🙂
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Exactly! My outlines tend to get changed as I write anyway, because various things come up during the actual writing that ends up altering the story down the line.
Right! We can’t stick too closely to outlines because so many beautiful/awesome improvisations come out when we just sit down to write and let it flow!
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Pantser is a stupid word, but I never thought it was derogatory or inflammatory in any way, just a stupid word. Saying “I write by the seat of my pants”IS a lot more work than saying “I’m a pantser” though.