HELP! I'm turning into a... a... *pantser*!

Those of you who know me know I'm a die-hard plotter. Character charts. Full, scene-by-scene outlines. Research in advance. The works.

Yeah, well, I have a secret confession. I can't work that way anymore, and facing that fact somehow manages to scare me to death and excite me beyond belief all at once.

Photo by: the trial

I'm not sure what's changed. Maybe I have. The last year has been insane, forcing me to go through some major, life-changing, ups-and-downs. After not writing for a while, I came back to my work enthusiastic and energetic... only to stall in the beginning stages of drafting an outline. I panicked, outlined again... and stalled. So I cried (seriously), outlined again... and stalled.

And then, one day, I said "Fuck it." (Really. I did.) I remembered reading a book that praised writing prompts and their effect on creativity. At that point, I had nothing to lose so I figured why not give this a shot? After all, nothing else I'd tried seemed to work.

I chose a headline from my daily newspaper at random, skipped reading the article altogether, and started writing. Before I knew it, I had a character who intrigued me, in a situation that damn nearly broke my heart. "Aha!" I thought. "Now I can outline." And I did. Only to start writing the story itself, and find my outline was as far removed from the words pouring on screen as Harry Potter is from Anna Karenina.

The really scary part? The stuff coming out on screen was much, much better than the crap in my outline. And I thought it was a pretty good outline to begin with. Guess that'll teach me. Now, every day I sit in front of my computer, I approach the story with a giddy enthusiasm that makes butterflies stir in my stomach. Butterflies? Damn. I haven't felt butterflies in years.

Now, for the first time ever, I'm discovering the story along with my characters. Some days, scenes brew in my mind. Other days, they appear as though out of thin air while my fingers hit the keyboard. When I find myself overwhelmed by questions I figure I should know the answers to, I stop, grab a notebook, and start free-writing. On the characters. On the story. On possible explanations for things that happened in the past, or things that may happen in the future.

I have no idea when the story will end. Or how. Oh, I have a vague hope it might end up where I think it will, but oddly enough, I find myself not caring much if it doesn't. I trust my process. My pantser process.

Not long ago, the word "pantser" would have made me break out in hives. Now, I'm tentatively embracing it, and my newfound creativity (and productivity) along with it.

Are you embracing your process? Or do you fight it, hoping it'll magically morph into something resembling The Hero's Journey instead of The Insomniac Writer's Plight?


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Blogger Belinda McBride said...

Poor Lacey! That reminds me of the first time I went " mean I'm supposed to do an outline???"

Welcome to the evolutionary process! Its kinda fun, not knowing what's going to happen next!

7:35 PM  
Blogger Lacey Savage said...

"The evolutionary process" -- I love that! Extremely fitting, too, since I kinda feel like I'm the one who's evolving here. :-)


7:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried to outline and do all the charter plotting but it just didn't work for me. As you say I just sit and write. Sometimes I get ideas at night then the next day I just start writing. Like yesterday I had a big day. The night before the hero was screaming for me to write this way and I did. It just goes eaiser for me.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Robin Snodgrass said...

When I first thought about starting to write seriously, I had no idea that you needed to "outline" your story. I've always written for myself and it never occurred to me not to just let it all happen as I went. I have always liked learning the story right along with my characters. It can be very exciting - especially when a character just takes over and leads you somewhere unexpected. LOL

7:58 PM  
Blogger Lacey Savage said...

Robin and Suzanne, very insightful comments. It's interesting that you both just started to write when you felt like trying your hand at writing a book.

Me? I panicked. A lot. And then I spent months whining to hubby that I wasn't creative enough to write a book. I mean, how would I ever get from "It was a dark and stormy night..." to "The End"? What about all the in-betweens? What's supposed to happen? How will I know?

So whenever I thought about writing that way, I froze. That's when I started picking up books on writing fiction. Lots and lots of books. And I didn't attempt to write a word until I'd devoured at least a dozen of them. That's why I began as a plotter (though interestingly enough, I've never thought about this before!).

Now, almost five years later, I trust myself to write a story. I know I can develop multi-layered characters, come up with interesting plot twists, and somehow manage to tie it all together. I guess I was just lacking the confidence you guys had all along. :-)


8:04 PM  
Blogger Lyndi Lamont said...

Lacey, your process may be changing or this particular story may just be a gift from the muse, but either way, I'm glad to hear you're happy with your writing again. :)

Linda, still a plotter

8:58 PM  
Blogger Tarot By Arwen said...

We are a mix. We tend to start and then flesh out with an outline or more like a map of "well, we want to be there so how do we get there from here?" And then off we go!

9:39 PM  
Blogger beth kery said...

Wow, Lacey, sounds like you've been struck by a bolt straight from above. I'm excited for you. Nice to hear you're having fun on your journey, even if it is a little scary.

I don't know for sure if I'm a plotter or a pantster. I do both, one more than the other on each successive project. I'd love to say I've discovered a comfort zone, but I really haven't. Every book is a mixture of toil and delight.

3:24 PM  
Blogger Lacey Savage said...

Linda - Thanks! I'm not sure what it is... Maybe something inside my head got knocked loose after my dry spell. Who knows? I'm not questioning, just going with the flow. I'm writing a LOT these days, and that's what matters. :-) Hope your muse is being good to you!

Arwen - That's pretty much what I'm doing, too, so I guess it's not fair to say I'm a total pantser. I know, roughly, where I'd like to end up. But if I'm trying to go from point A to point B yet find myself at point F instead, well, that's OK, too!

Beth - I really like the way you phrased that: "Every book is a mixture of toil and delight." It really is, isn't it? And as long as the story makes its way onto the page, what else matters?


5:37 PM  
Blogger Dawn Montgomery said...

Congrats on getting through the dry spell. LOL. Becoming a panster would terrify me on a primal level, but I have no doubts you are doing great!

I started writing the same way you did...devouring writing books first LOL. Maybe that *is* why I plot first...

Congratulations on embracing your new freedom :) and I can't wait to see how they come out. Hope you're getting settled in again.


4:58 PM  
Blogger Lacey Savage said...

Dawn -- Thanks, sweetie! Things are finally getting back to normal around here. It took a while, but I'm starting to feel settled in.

As for the pantser process, well, to be perfectly honest, it's probably closer to a half-pantser process. I still know where my scenes are going (roughly) before I sit down to write, and I have an overall story arc that stays in the back of my mind, but my muse has free reign to do whatever she wants, even if that means throwing out the entire plot arc as I go along. I've gotten through two books this way -- so far so good! :-)

9:31 AM  

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