Monday, March 9, 2009

Death of a Pantser

I’ve always been a pantser—starting with a basic premise, whether a character or situation or dilemma, and just writing. For a long time it worked for me just fine. Yes, on occasion I found myself abandoning a concept partway through because I’d lost interest in the story, or had written myself into a corner, but for the most part it was great.

Recently, however, I’ve begun to think I may have to make a change in my writing habits, and it corresponds, I think, to a change in my way of life.

When I started writing I was working at the mall, in one of those retail jobs that consisted mainly of standing around for a good part of the day doing mindless chores. I also took the bus to and from work. All this waiting, either for the bus, customers or even a hamburger at lunch, gave me ample time to plot the next scene, twist or plot point. By the time I got home, I was ready to sit at the computer and type away.

Well, that’s all changed. I drive to work now, am back to working retail but in a capacity that doesn’t allow for mindless standing around, and have taken on a job sewing re-enactment clothing. I still try to plot mentally as I’m doing other things, but it no longer works the way it used to. The activities I’m involved with now take up too much brain-space. I even had to stop trying to plot when I’m driving since I almost crashed one day, lost in thought, trying to decide which way I wanted to take my latest tale.

I wish I could think the problem lay somewhere else, or could be solved in another way. I’ve always said to my writing buddies that plotting was like writing the story twice and by the time I got to the end of the plotting process I was too bored with the story to try and write it out. Thinking about it though, writing is kind of like knitting a sweater. Sure, you can, if you want, simply start with your wool, a pair of needles and an idea and take it from there. There may be problems if you get halfway through and decide the pattern you created isn’t working out the way you wanted, or you realise you’ve forgotten to shape for an armhole. Then you have to pull it out and redo it, or put it down without finishing.

It’s so much easier to start with a pattern.


Although logically it sounds like what I need to do, I’m still resisting. It just doesn’t seem natural. I’ll give it a try and see...maybe there’s some happy medium to be found? I’m going to start with my friend and fellow writer Amy Ruttan’s suggestion—write a synopsis first, add some plot points, and THEN write the book...

I’ll let you know how it works out!


  1. ROFL let's see how it works.

    Just don't come after me. I used to be a panster and now look at me.

    LOL! I have no choice but to plot.

  2. HA! I'm saving a wet noodle with which to lash you if I fail! Actually, it already seems to be helping...although I'll confess to simply writing the synopsis until I got the part that was holding me back sorted out! lol! If I get stuck again, maybe I'll finish it!!