I have always loved pantsing my way through a novel, throwing myself headlong into the rush of creating a story without any clear idea of where I’m going or what I’m doing. I like the huge mess that pantsing leaves me with slightly less, and the fact that I need to redraft these books two or three times before I find a plot that actually makes sense even less so. Because of this, over time, I have tried to teach myself to outline more, think through my plots at least a little before I write them so that the resulting draft is not quite such a bundle of randomness and errors.
For the most part, I am doing much better since adopting a loose outlining strategy. I’ve found a way of plotting that gives me the freedom to experiment while still coming out of it with a basic story that is solid enough to work with. Well, most of the time. My most recent Camp Novel is a bit of a failure there. But overall, planning my novels just a little bit before I begin has been really helping me write better novels overall. After all, I can weave in story threads earlier, I don’t lose my way in the plot as much, and I contradict myself way less.
And yet, I will always be a panster.
Let me explain. The novel I planned for this month, I finished in just over two weeks, leaving me with a large chunk of month in which to do more writing. So I elected rather than just stopping there, to pants my way through another novel. A novel for which I had exactly no ideas. It’s a recipe that seems slated for disaster, doesn’t it? And yet I feel like the ideas that I’m pouring into this novel are better, fresher than the ones in my planned novel (though that one has very definite issues in other ways).
The thing about pantsing a novel from start to finish is that there are no limits. My mind goes crazy coming up with little bits of ideas, stringing them together in more unusual patterns than I usually do in brainstorming. Granted, the resulting mess is usually not useable, but the ideas that I come up with on the fly are fantastic. I love them. They make no sense together and I love that too. I am more creative when I’m writing than I am at any other time. It’s like the saying goes, I don’t know what I want to say until I see what I have written. How do I know what ideas will work until I’ve tried them out? Pantsing a novel is a way of generating ideas, testing things and throwing stuff together to see what sticks and what doesn’t.
And this is why I will always be a pantser, why I will always write these terrible novels by the seat of my pants with a blank slate and no limits. Because it keeps me fresh and generates new ideas that I can use in more structured works. It exercises a freedom that my brain needs sometimes to go wild and find those connections that I don’t when I’m just planning. I am a pantser at heart, and, deep down inside, I don’t think I will ever quite give that up.
As a bonus, here is the vlog I should have posted on Monday but didn’t, all about five writing quirks I have. Let me know if you’re enjoying these vlogs!