Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for Pantster

When it comes to my writing style, I am a pantster. Which means I write by the seat of my pants. No outlines. No idea of where the plot is going or what my characters are going to do next.

I like writing this way. I can't believe some of the things that happen to my characters. Just a few minutes ago, I met somebody I had no idea would ever, in a million years, be in my novel. And he's added a lot of tension to the story. Necessary tension.

To me, these surprises feel right. They feel natural. And I like that they come in and make my story better and take it to places I may never have imagined if I sat down to write an outline.

But, of course, like anything that sounds too good to be true, there are some drawbacks to life as a pantster. Sitting down to write, with no specific idea of what is going to happen next leads to a lot of blinking. And staring.

And once that wears off, it can lead to a lot of unnecessary wandering. A very literal, "well let's go down this street, or open this door, or take these stairs, or talk to this stranger, and see what happens." The thing is...sometimes you can make the decision to go there and...(gasp)...nothing happens. Nothing useful, anyway. That means a lot of Ctrl X-ing.

The good thing is, the more I write, the better I can see when I am going down a wrong path and stop myself a little sooner. Not soon enough. But sooner. :-)

So far, that's the way I write. That's the way it all goes down. I don't expect it to change, but who knows.

If you are a writer, are you a plotter or a pantster?

And what about in real life? Plotter or pantster?

I'm pretty sure I'm a pantster in both cases, although sometimes I keep a strict calendar. A strict...flexible...calendar. Ok fine. My calendar is very flexible.


  1. Do yo manage to get stories completed? I would imagine endings are hardest for pantsers.

    Moody Writing

  2. I used to be a pantster and write without knowing where my stories were going. Recently though, I've had to become more organised. To be honest, I prefer being a pantster, because I enjoy the element of surprise every time I write. It's interesting to find out, along with my readers, what the characters are going to do next.

    When I finish my latest project, I think that I'm going to put the pantster back into my writing. It might rejuvinate my enthusiasm for writing!

  3. I'm definitely a pantster in my writing. Have no idea where it's heading. But in my life I'm extremely organized and plan things in advance. I also leave room for down time and serendipity, though.

  4. I'm a pantser too! I usually have general ideas of the outcome, or a major scene or two, but if I outline, it's really just wasted time.

    In real life... hm. I'm a plotter to an extent, as in I like knowing what'll happen even if it's just a fall back, but I'm always up for risks and adventures!

    - allison writes

  5. I've never really compared my writing style to my life style...but I suppose I'm somewhere in the middle on both counts. When I was younger, I was a total pantser. Now, I need to have SOME idea of where I'm going so I can put in the appropriate clues and foreshadowing. Life is the same. I like enough of a routine/plan to understand the context of my life but not so much as to make it all boring.

  6. Panster is a great phrase--I will borrow it, OK? I think all writers do the pants-thing for different projects. But for big WIPs, I have to know where I am going, or at least the general location latitude & longitude.

  7. I guess I'm sort of a mix in both writing and real life, but I tend to lean toward the pantser side of things. I usually have some idea of things I intend to happen along the way, but I don't necessarily know when or how. They're just there in my head and I have to find my way to them occurring on the page. In real life, I try to plan, but I also tend to do things spontaneously instead.

    Good luck with the rest of the A to Z Challenge!