A Pantser’s Guide To Writing Regularly (As a Pantser)

Alternative title: Pantsing is Hard, Plotting is Harder, How About a Mix? 
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As pantsers (for those of us who are such writers) we often lack a plan regarding our tales unlike our plotting counterparts; our stories are spontaneous and fantastical but boy can they be hard to get on the page sometimes! They are, in many ways, reliant on a spark of inspiration and an insatiable need to write. 

The hardest part of writing is getting started. 

Writing everyday is not something that happens on its own, not in the beginning at least, it’s something that needs to be forced. This is especially the case for us pantsers as our lack of planning can sometimes get us in trouble, unable to write and procrastinating.

I reckon pantsers are more likely to be binge writers—thoughts? 

Is there a way past this? I hate planning and plotting just as much as, if not more than, the next pantser, but surely there’s a happy medium that lets us explore new ideas as they come but reigns us in and gets us writing? 

I realise plotting and planning is not as rigid as I make it out to be, but in my mind it’s rather skeletal and difficult to majorly change.

To be fair, I always find it easier to write if I know what’s going to be written; this knowledge doesn’t have to be very detailed, but if I know a series of events that needs to occur in the near future, it sets me up with a bunch of targets to hit though the order and other factors are yet to be decided to satisfy the pantser in me. Further, most of these ‘targets’ will never get hit as the story takes a veer in another direction into another field. 

Also, this may be due to my visual nature, but I like to have imagined where the story is going prior to writing it. This, of course, changes after each writing session, but the very action of imaging frees me to write, even if I write something completely different. I find that when I’m in the midst of writing and am consumed by the action, words cease to exist and a movie unfolds in my mind. My task is simple: transcribe the movie. 

Where am I going with this?

One of the things I’ve found extremely helpful as of late, is writing up what has recently happened in the story and what will need to happen after each writing session. Not only does this allow me to collect my thoughts, but it starts the process of imagining what is to come in. 

At the beginning of my writing day, I sit down with my notebook, read where I got up to yesterday and then the ideas or clues for the day. With a map loosely held before me, new ideas blossoming by the minute and little else to distract me (see post about a controlled user for work), I have no choice but to write.

Now this could all, of course, mean I’m not as much of a pantser as I like to believe, but seeing as words are being written and stories are being told, I’m very happy being this weird mix of plotter and pantser. Which are you? Pantser, plotter or mixed? 

Thanks for reading! 

Janna 

P.S. This is, of course, something that will most likely only work for those of us working on first drafts. It’ll be interesting to see how this transfers to edits; I’d love to develop a note-taking system for all stages of novel writing. 

Do you ever take notes on where you’re going? 

The lovely photo used in today’s post is by Carli Jean.

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5 thoughts on “A Pantser’s Guide To Writing Regularly (As a Pantser)

  1. J.M.D. Reid says:

    I’m mixed. I have a rough outline that’s definitely subject to change on the major plot points of the story. And then i connected the dots, see how characters react and that can change the plot. The closer I get to writing a section, the firmer it becomes in my mind. I do plot out complicated sequences before hand. I can’t write my story out of sequence like some authors can because I need to build on what i wrote before.

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    • jannakaixer says:

      I think that’s a good way to go about it; seeing how characters react to the plot you have in mind and then changing it subtly as you go. I can’t write out of sequence either though I have tried to on multiple occasions – it becomes too difficult to know what’s happening when and to whom, I found. Perhaps if I had a sort of system established to keep track of everything it would be easier to do so.

      Thanks for the comment! I love hearing your thoughts on things!

      Janna

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  2. Saulus Sedai (@SaulusSedai) says:

    First of all I’d never heard of the word “pantser” before. Secondly, after reading this I realize I REALLY need to pay attention to developing a system that helps me write more, if not better. 😉 I’ll certainly try some of your methods.

    Have you played with background and font color? I’ve read, and found it true, that it’s easier to read white font on a dark background. I’ve used a dark-blue background and white font in the past, and I think I like that best.

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    • jannakaixer says:

      I’m sorry about that – I’ll fix the post up tomorrow to include a definition of the term; I use it so often and tend to forget that those not as immersed in the world of writing (in particular NaNoWriMo) are unfamiliar with some of the terminology or ‘jargon’ I might employ. I’m glad to have helped! It’s not really a crucial thing to establish but it really does help; the main thing is that you’re writing.

      I have played around a bit in Scrivener; I tend to go for either a light creme or a light green background (I blame Janet Frame for that one). I’m not a fan of white text on dark background; I think it looks messy and it irritates me immensely. You should do what works for you!

      Thanks again for the comment!

      Janna

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  3. Saulus Sedai (@SaulusSedai) says:

    Is that because Janet Frame’s books were printed on a dull-green paper? While reading up on best text/background color combination for computer text, I read that some paperback books used to be printed on a dull-green paper. I don’t think I ever came across that.

    P.S. That’s silly, apologizing because I didn’t know a word. 😉

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