I’m one of those writers you might call a ‘pantser,’ you know, the kind who writes a novel with reckless abandon — sans plot outline — until I reach the semblance of an ending.
It’s fun! It’s exciting! It’s FRESH. And I’m afraid if I don’t write like that I’ll overcensor myself , or worse, get bored because I already know what’s going to happen.
Revising a pants-style, mutant pit first draft of a novel takes a really, really, really, really long time. I’m not saying I’ll never pants a novel again, but I’ve done it twice now, and the first novel was such a complicated mess I had to stick it in a drawer until I became “a good enough writer to tackle such a complicated plot.”
This second full-length novel, a YA fantasy, I’ve been revising for dozens and dozens and dozens of hours…reordering scenes, consolidating bits I had epiphanies about later in the writing, just, you know … Clean-up on aisle seven…and twelve…and one…and fourteen. Clean up the whole damn store.
But hey, writing and revising a novel should take as long as it needs to, right? And who’s to say I would ever have been able to come up with the cool, out-there things that happen in this story (don’t mean to brag, just sayin’) if I had NOT let my imagination flow 100% unhindered, not even by a plot outline?
I’m not as young as I used to be (I’ll admit) and have a lot of stories I want to write. So many.
Yet here I am, dozens and dozens and dozens of hours into revising and fleshing out this first draft into a flow, a scene order, that tells a cohesive story. Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel — I’m three-quarters of the way through — but I’m not even talking about all the fun edit-y things like crisping up dialogue, bringing out sensory details, polishing prose. I’m talking about just getting the first draft into an order that makes sense.
Outlining would have been so much easier. More importantly, it would have been FASTER.
Then this morning a lovely thing happened. A brand new character, with a brand new story, in a brand new genre (still YA), danced herself right onto my computer screen. And she brought a LOT of her story’s plot with her. God bless her. When I’m done with this YA fantasy, I might just be able to write a novel using a proper outline.
Now if I just knew the best way to outline a novel. Any suggestions?
4 thoughts on “My Name is Eve, and I am a Recovering ‘Pantser’”
I do, actually. I’m a pantser, but I’m about to tackle a short story submission, and pantsing on a deadline is a scary thought. So I’m trying this:
I’ve played around with the Snowflake method before and didn’t like it, but this method is working well so far because brainstorming questions I should ponder and then answer seems pretty intuitive to me.
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You know, in my brief look at the Snowflake method in the past it didn’t really wow me either, but I guess I didn’t give it much of a chance. On your recommendation, I will give it a try on my next novel. I’m actually looking forward to it!
And thank you so much for the link — that was really thoughtful. 🙂
Nice to meet you. I’m a Pantser too! Writing the first draft is actually fun–more or less a matter of writing every day. Shaping and developing it into a story was another dimension. It took me numerous drafts just to find my story. In a post that I read recently, a writer shared that he outlined his books first by writing one paragraph about each chapter. I imagine that he first made an outline, then a paragraph for each entry (chapter) of what he wanted to include in the chapter. Of course, nothing is written in stone. I’m not sure that this will work for me as part of the thrill of being a Pantser (that keeps me writing every day) is discovering the story, but there’s something to be said about knowing your story ahead of time. Good luck with your writing.
I enjoyed reading yyour post