Yes, I am a Pantser

When I first started writing I tried to do outlines, and synopses, and worksheets before I typed a single word of the story.  I tried plotting out the chapters in advance and tried mapping out the characters movements so they’d be exactly where I needed them when the time came.  I tried and I failed.  I failed epically.

With no idea where to go from the failed attempt at writing, I threw my hands up and decided to just have fun.  And so I started writing Ravenborne.  And it was fun.  It had ridiculous dialogue, convenient characters, a hero that was a jerk for absolutely no reason, and no less than four plots.  Yes, four.  Oh, it was a hot mess, but it got finished.  And when it was finished I tucked it away and started on the Ink series.

Ink in the Blood was better.  There were flaws in the characters and the climax was anti-climatic when I finished, but it wasn’t awful.  It was fixable.  And I did fix it.  That gave me some measure of comfort.  Not enough for me to believe I was going about writing the right way, though.  I was still filled with doubt.  By this time I’d met writers on line and they were talking about those dreaded worksheets and outlines.  And I was getting rejections.

All that changed, however, when I heard the word ‘pantser’ on Twitter one day.  It was a big day for me, so I still remember it clearly.  One of the people I follow tweeted a queston:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?  I knew I wasn’t a plotter, but I had no idea what pantser was, and since this seemed like a term I should know, I turned to my trusty friend Google for an answer.

It was like a whole new world just opened up for me.  It was okay for me not to know where my characters were going.  It was okay for my first draft to be a hot mess.  It was okay for me to not use outlines and synopses to figure out my plot and characters.  It was okay for me to just write and see where the story took me.  And that, I could do.

Now, two years later, it amazes me that I hadn’t come across the term earlier.  Had I, I would have been comfortable with my writing style sooner and wouldn’t have tried to force myself into a box I didn’t fit into.  After all, I’m kind of a pantser at life.  I just signed up to go back to school to study criminal justice.  What am I going to do with the degree?  No idea.  So why go back?  The classes look cool.

I married my husband after only dating for nine months and then moved to another city, and bought a house all within the first year of marriage because it sounded like a good idea at the time.  It was.  We still live there and I still love the town and the house.  But it wasn’t exactly a planned out kind of thing.

Bottom line though, there is no right way to do something-whether it be writing or living your life.  Or, at least, no one right way to do something.  Yes, it can be frustrating not knowing where you’re going, and with writing it can mean more rewrites, which means more work after the story is done.  But if it’s the only way you can write, do it.

I recently dug Ravenborne out and rewrote it.  And it’s no longer a hot mess.  It’s a good story.  It’s a solid story.  And it’s a story that never would have come to be if I’d insisted on outlines, worksheets, and a synopsis.  Do what works and remember sometimes it’s both the journey and the destination.


3 Responses to “Yes, I am a Pantser”
  1. Amen! There is no right way to do something, only your way. Everyone needs to find their own way.

    Your story about you and your husband made me smile. I met, dated, and married my husband nine months after we met. I moved from a fairly big city to a ranch community. Big changes that were right for me.

  2. It took me *forever* to find out what worked for me. I fall somewhere in between a Plotter and Pantser. One day I heard someone call it “organic” and that struck a chord with me. I feel my way through a story, following its natural rhythm, along with my characters. And I write long hand no matter how many people tease me for doing it. I must have tried and failed a million other methods before I figured out my own!

    • I’m still muddling my way through other methods looking for one that fits. I’m glad you found yours. My husband is constantly teasing me for writing my stories long hand and typing them out later.

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