Monday, October 10, 2011

Diary of a Pantster

I've been thinking a lot lately about my method. For readers out there in blog land who have never thought about it, writers have various methods in which they write.

We have those who outline and plan everything from beginning to end, those who plan the ending first and then plan the book around the perceived outcome, those who have a vague plan and write as they go (by the seat of their pants) and then there are the flat out Pantsters as some are called, those who start with a blank page and have virtually no idea where they are going. These writers truly write by the seat of their pants.

I'm this kind of writer. I read an article once by a very famous novelist of years past. This particular author had very meticulous, detailed outlines for his books. He once said that to write by the seat of one's pants was totally unprofessional. I was quite offended by this comment. And a little shocked. Hey, I don't knock the planners and outliners. Every person's brain works differently. We all approach our craft at a different angle. If it works for you, do it. I've tried to plan. It never works out. I never stick to the outline. I start writing and my characters pretty much just come alive on their own and take over.

And this is really how it seems to a real pantster. It's as if the book writes itself. Once a pantster is in the zone, our fingers are really just mediums for our characters, the ouiga board from which to speak and come alive. Our characters surprise us. Characters we never intended to have a large role become some of the most unforgettable characters ever. The plot may take a nose dive or take a fork in the road that we never saw coming.

It is both exciting and frustrating to be a panster. And frightening. We never know the outcome of our books. Even if we start out with a general idea, the theme of the book will change many times. We discover hidden messages our characters are trying to say. There are many great writers who plan and there are many great writers who write by the seat of his or her pants. I think I would feel more secure if I were a planner, if I had a detailed outline and knew when I would finish each book. My life would be less stressful but I wouldn't give up my panster style for anything now. Why? Because it has never let me down. I listen to my characters. They speak to me and take me to places all on their own. Writing a book is no different from reading. I simply have to keep typing to turn the page and find out what happens.

For those that don't believe in such a thing. True pantsters are real. We do exist. And yes we are always worried that we'll lose it and stare at that blank page and nothing will come forth. But when those days comes, we simply set our hands on the keyboard and listen. No, we're not any more gifted than the writes who outline. For me, I build upon scenes. We do have our own ideas but they are simply more spontaneous and last minute. The ideas literally come to us as we write. Our ideas flow to us as we write dialogue, a new scene, introduce a new character. Our brains just work this way.

Being a panster is like taking a road trip without a map.

Have a beautiful week!


Pete Grimm said...

I always love a great illustration used to make a point. :-) Cheers, Pete

Kara said...

I wish I was more of a pantser! I have this terrible need to be in control. I am very awed by those of you who can just sit down and write, not knowing where you are going. Cool!

Ciara Ballintyne said...

I write an outline, but I don't always choose to follow the map. While trying to write a synopsis recently, someone said 'But don't you have an outline you can start from?' Well, yes, but the finished book doesn't look much like that outline anymore. Outlining helps me to make sure the key plot pieces fit together coherently and logically (something I really struggled with before) but it doesn't change the way the words just come to me - much the way you described. The imagery, the characters, new plot directions, all just come to me as I write.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I wish I could write like a pantster. I am a die-hard plotter, and it really slows down the process.

Found your blog after an early a.m. Tweet, and am glad I did! Please consider me a new follower.

Alisha said...

@Pete..thanks, my friend!

@Kara..well, if you saw how afraid I am when starting a new book you wouldn't be in really is scary being a pantster. Every new day is a day we hope our muse doesn't pack her suitcase and leave. Thank you for stopping by. ;)

@Ciara...weird isn't it? Like we're on autopilot. Kinda cool but scary all the same.

@Bryce...everyone has their method. I truly think it is how each of our brains are wired. You are just a wired plotter and I have always admired plotters. Thank you for stopping by and following. You made my day. :)

D.L.Sparks said...

I enjoyed this. I am a combination of both. I outline to keep plot lines straight then I just let the characters take over :)