Writer Reflections

Pantser Ponderings

I’ve read a lot about the virtues and pitfalls of both plotting a novel and writing by the seat of your pants. Some writers swear plotting is the only way to go, while others insist on diving in headfirst without any plan at all. These differing approaches have led to more than a few harsh words from those insistent their way is the only way.

I’m not here to tell anyone how to go about writing. I’m nowhere close to qualified enough to say which way is the right way to do anything. But I can tell you just as there are different learning styles, parenting styles, and styles for every other aspect of life, different writing styles won’t bring about the end of the world.

Personally, I’m a pantser. As my many English teachers could tell you, I never wrote an outline unless it was required for a grade, and even then I only made one after my essay or other writing assignment was already completed. Still, I passed my classes with flying colors, and my work never got less than an A+ in high school. Does this mean all people should eliminate outlines from their process? No. It just means you’ll never see one from me or other pantsers, and we’re fine. Beyond the occasional notes for an idea, we don’t need them, nor do we want them.

I enjoy pantsing. I’ll happily piece snippets together like a puzzle until a story is finished. It’s easy to write scenes parallel to each other, matching foreshadowing moments to the resulting epic reveal or the meet-cute of a couple to the final romantic declaration of love. It keeps my writing organic, flowing naturally instead of coming across stilted and scripted. I can let a story journey down whatever tangent fits best, even if it’s not where I thought it would lead.

Of course, there are cons, too. I end up with a lot of scattered scenes that don’t really fit anywhere, or they end up needing serious editing by the time I do find a good spot for them. Characters need to be merged with others or axed altogether. Many times, though, these extra characters and scenes can lead to new stories, and that’s never a bad thing.

Maybe you’ve been told you ought to plot even though you hate it. Or maybe you’ve been pantsing and realize you need better structure because the thought of aimlessly typing away leaves you terrified. Do whatever works for you, and don’t let someone’s biased opinion keep you from approaching a story the way you want. Pantsing will always be my preferred method for writing. What about you?

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