Just like the last time I posted about this subject, I’m pretty sure someone is reading that post title and is very, very confused.

So if you’re unaware, there are two styles of writing fiction that most writers can be divided into: pantsers and plotters. To put it simply, plotters like to plan out as much as they can before and during writing, while pantsers tend to plan out only a few things, and leave the rest up to whatever they come up with in the moment. Some people do a mix, but for the majority, they usually fall into one camp or the other.

I’m a big plotter, but for a while I’ve been experimenting with more seat-of-my-pants style writing. I wanted to see if that led to situations within stories that felt more natural, more “organic” than something that might feel forced for the sake of the plot. And my experiment yielded an interesting conclusion: except for some short stories (and not many, mind you), I can’t pants for the life of me. And believe me, I tried. I tried to let situations rise as organically as possible and go with the flow. However, what ended up happening more often than not is that I would just sit there in front of my computer, trying to figure out what comes next. Then I’d get distracted, and I’d end up watching a few videos or reading clickbait articles, and then I’d realize that it’s time to make tomorrow’s lunch and get ready for bed, and only a little work has been done, and that just sucks!

I didn’t fully realize how bad I was at pantsing until I was writing an email to my publisher. We were discussing changes I could make to Rose, and I mentioned that I’d really have to think about what changes I would make, as, and I quote, “I can’t pants to save my life.” It wasn’t until I really wrote out those words that it dawned on me how true they were. I can’t pants to save my life. Except for the rare short story, I need an order and an idea of where I’m going. Otherwise, I just can’t write, let alone make a compelling story.

So I’m back on mainly plotting out my stories. But I’m not sad about that. Like I said, I’m a plotter, so it feels good to be writing in a way I know that works for me. And I’m happy for another reason: this experiment in pantsing was a success in a different manner than what I expected. Thomas Edison once said that his thousand failed light bulbs weren’t actually failed light bulbs, but discoveries on how not to make a light bulb. Similarly, I discovered some more of my limitations when it comes to writing, and how I can improve in the future. Far from a complete and total failure.

And if you have a specific way you write, don’t feel pressured to change it because other writers write differently. We all have our areas and our methods that work for us. If you want to experiment and try something new, go ahead and try it. You never know what’ll happen. But never feel that you have to change how you do things. You could end up going from quality work to not getting anything done at all.

Have you tried both pantsing and plotting? How has it worked out for you?

That’s all for now, Followers of Fear. I know my posts have been a bit more spaced out than usual lately, but I’m hoping to have more to post about in the new month. Hopefully even a couple pieces of good news (fingers crossed). Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

  1. I find it depends on the story. Patrick had to be plotted because it was a prequel, though I pantsed in a lot of the reasons for why things happened. Ashes of Deceit I had to plot out the murder mystery going on to make sure everything worked right, and the final book in the series had an outline so I could make sure everything that needed wrapped up got wrapped up. Otherwise though, I pants it, but I usually know what is coming next. Like I’ll write a person going to the store and I know at the store they ‘re going to run into someone who will tell them something. I might not know what they’ll tell them until I write that part. Then I pause there and figure out what this new information will make them do, then write to that point and see what is happening there to determine the next part and on and on like that in little bursts. Or instead it will be write to a certain point ad think “this need some action” so then I have to figure out how a fight ended up there, what motivated it, etc, and then work backwards to work that in. So it’s sort of like plotting but in very small pieces so that things can change. (like in masque of the vampire I hadn’t planned on having Katelina’s friend being stalked, but I needed something exciting there so boom – a stalker appeared – and I didn’t know who it was for awhile, either.)

  2. I got a chuckle out of the title of this post. ๐Ÿ™‚ I see nothing wrong with plotting. I felt the same way about plotting that you do pantsing. My brain didn’t want to work that way. You have to go with the method that is best for you. As long as the story gets done, that’s all that counts.

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