I’m not sure where the term “Pantser” was started, but it’s one that I learned through my Virginia Romance Writers’ group. For those who don’t know what it means, it refers to a writer who creates a story “by the seat of their pants,” without knowing the final outcome ahead of time.
I’ll admit that I’m a Pantser. I love to write off the top of my head, not sure of the outcome. Sometimes magical things happen while pantsing. But I’ve recently come to the conclusion, after many instances of writing myself into a blind alley, or worse, a dead end, that there is something to be said for being a Plotter.
Rebecca York, the February speaker at my VRW meeting, an author of many books, and a voracious reader herself, finally cinched my decision to switch camps. She revealed that she generally finds the Plotter’s stories more satisfying. She respects those authors who swear by pantsing, even likes many of their books, but their stories never quite hold up in comparisons to the Plotters’ stories. The Pantsers’ books tend to have loose ends, and never wrap up quite as neatly.
And something else, this coming from me, an up ‘til now die-hard Pantser: pantsing creates a lot more work for writers. If I’d been a good Plotter all this time, I know I wouldn’t have had to go through so many edits of my first published novel, Love Trumps Logic. And I know for a fact that I would have finished my young adult novel by now. It’s because I ran into a blind alley—killing off someone on a whim that I later regretted losing—that I have not yet finished it.
So I set a task for myself. I would plot the young adult book, not allowing myself to write one more word of the book’s text until I had a complete synopsis. I didn’t go so far as to make myself outline each chapter, but I had to get the gist of the story down on paper. The whole story. It was one of the hardest tasks I’ve set myself as a writer, but I’m proud to say that I finally accomplished it last week.
And guess what I’ve discovered, now that I’m back to actually writing the book? Plotting out the story, having buoys along the way to guide me, actually has made the writing process more fun. There’s no worrisome fear about winding up in a dead end, and no doubts about who will live or die. I know where I want to go and the getting there—the completion of those details—is now where I get to pants all I want. It’s a satisfying compromise.
As a Pantser, accomplishing a plotting goal was quite a feat, and I wanted to share my experience of it. I recommend that all Pantsers out there try it just once. You might be glad you did. I was.
Lucy Balch, author of
Love Trumps Logic
Available on Amazon (Kindle and print), and through Second Wind Publishing’s website