Embracing my inner pantser

As writers we dedicate a good deal of time to honing our skills. I don’t know any author who doesn’t seek to improve and grow in the craft. But sometimes I think we place a little too much emphasis on technique and not enough on instinct.

You see, I’m a pantser.

I wrote my first 3 novels without any kind of outline at all. It wasn’t until I contracted a novel on proposal that I even considered plotting a story. That kind of structure doesn’t come naturally to me. For me, half the joy of writing is letting the story unfurl. My characters sometimes veer off course, but I find the detours enhance the story in ways I could never imagine. To me, pantsing is storytelling in it’s most basic form.

There are about a thousand worksheets, software programs, and seminars on how to improve your plotting skills, but you rarely see classes that focus on pantsing.

Writing without a detailed plot is often treated as a bad habit to be overcome, but I don’t see it that way. As a matter of fact, I hope to get back to writing by the seat of my pants. I’m not saying my Excel sheets and Scrivner outlines don’t have value. These are useful tools and I value them. But I also value my own instincts as a writer, and I don’t want to bury them in paper anymore.

I think I had to ride the learning curve to get here, but I’m finally getting to a place where I’m more comfortable with who I am as a writer.

My name is Margaret and I’m a panster. I can’t wait to see where this adventure takes me next!

How about you? Panster or plotter? What writing advice as been of the most value to you? Which words of wisdom do you wish you’d ignored?



5 thoughts on “Embracing my inner pantser

  1. I like to believe I’m a little of both. A long time ago (when I was a teenager) and first started writing, I plotted… but I found that because of my OCD, I never got anywhere. I tended to focus on the details and get caught up in trying to sort everything out. So, I joined NaNoWriMo and learned to be a pantster–and that went great for a few years. I wrote 6k words a day, and it was awesome. Eventually though, I’d get to a point in my writing where I wasn’t quite sure about the details of my story and I’d get stuck… I’d basically write myself into a corner because I wasn’t paying any attention to plot… and I’d stress for weeks on how to get out of the corner. Just recently, I’ve gotten back into plotting–but in a way I can handle without freaking out. I’ve found a way to sort of balance the two by writing the briefest of plot-lines (I figured out the theme for my book and the main goal post scenes I’ll need to make it happen), and then allowing my panster-inner-self to take over, I fill in the gaps and details as I write the book. Sometimes bits and pieces of my plot change, and I then go back and change scenes as needed–but they don’t go horribly haywire like they used to. It seems that this way I don’t get tripped up on the bits of my plot that weren’t clear, and my OCD doesn’t kick in and shove me into a rat-wheel. So far, so good.

  2. This is exactly what I’m trying to get to – a balance between the two styles that works for me. At the moment, I’m trying to recapture some of the freedom of writing. Glad I’m not the only one trying to figure it all out!

  3. I’m very much a pantser. It causes me to start way more stories than I ever finish. Sometimes I have a go at outlining. But usually the scenes in my head refuse to make way for it before I’ve written them out.
    Still, I’ve only been writing for about 25 years, so I’m still an apprentice. I might change my ways. 😉

  4. I’m a hopeless pantser and a wannabe plotter. I don’t think I’ll ever fully master the art of plotting, though. Sometimes I’m okay with that. Other times, when I find bits of dialogue written on gum wrappers, I think it’s time to plot, plot, baby.

  5. Plotter! This shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me. My need to have things planned, organized and ready to go extends into my writing. Before I put a single word to the page, I can give you a complete rundown of the plot and tell you some of my favorite moments of the story as if they were already on the page.

    But, the actual word-to-word flow is still up in the air. I know what happens, I don’t always know how it happens. Scenes unfold very naturally and organically as I type. This allows the characters to improv their way through the plot and to become very real people.

    I love my plottering.

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