Plotting as a Pantser

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!

Disconnected

Through all my adventures lately–both in attending the conference and querying–working on my second novel Inductance, has taken a backseat. This has been frustrating both because it is leading to a few errors in the work as well as because I don’t like days where I don’t write; unless it is a specified day off, I feel anxious and less accomplished than I do on those days where I have written a chapter. Don’t get me wrong, I usually take the weekends off, unless I am sitting at home with no plans (there have to be some days to recharge the mind and give the story a break!). However, especially with the conference, I did not have time to write for four days, and before that, preparing for the conference was time consuming as well. I started Inductance a little less than a month ago, and now I have 27,000 words done, so I am not doing awful at the whole thing, but I am definitely not as prolific as I was in my heaviest work phases of writing Capacitance.

I want this to change. This disconnected process that I have going right now is causing just that–disconnect–in my story. Once again, I am forever thankful to my Dad, the in-progress reader and editor, as he has caught some of these disconnects as he reads the new chapters of Inductance. For the most part, they have been relatively small, easy to correct errors. For example, today at lunch he caught a snag where the characters had planned to change their meeting place to different room, but then later on when the meeting actually occurs, I forgot to change its location to match the new plans. A minor detail, but one that readers WILL notice. I am glad it was caught, and I am actually excited to go back and change it because by connecting the details and having the characters meet at the new room, I think I can insert some really cool scenes into the story.

All that being said, I have decided to go back and read my work so far on Inductance–when I write, sometimes it is such an organic process that I literally don’t remember what I wrote after it’s done. This isn’t such a problem when I am writing a chapter each day and the flow remains fresh in my mind. I think that by going back and reading my manuscript thus far, I can refresh myself with the story and that will make it easier to keep on track with things, as well as possibly spark some new plot lines (the necessity for an action packed book is still daunting me!). It will also give me a chance to get some early edits!

Today I prepared and sent out five query letters, and hope to get a couple more done before the day is through. I think once I have all those sent out, then focus on Inductance will come much more easily.