Being a pantser came natural to my writing. Pantsing provided the process for living. I had a plan for life – my long term goals and objectives – but I lived out life in the moment (and often moment by moment).
It made sense that I would write in that same manner. I always had a long term goal for my story, but I wrote out that story moment by moment.
A friend sent me an article about J.R.R. Tolkien and his process for writing (as shared by the writing cooperative). It, along with some thoughts from another friend, have me rethinking my “living in the moment” process when it comes to my writing (I have LONG AGO rethought that process in life – home schooling three boys and working from home required more detailed planning).
I started planning out my books – not in the details that Tolkien created, but enough details to make it easier for me to pick up where I left off. I discovered that my life rarely fit into my picture perfect plan. There were days – and sometimes weeks – when I had no opportunity to work on my WIP. Without some type of plan, I would have to re-read what I had written and HOPE that my thoughts could realign.
It didn’t always work that way. More often that I wanted, the story line ran and hid. I spent more time trying to find it than I did working on the story.
I needed a better plan. I watched in awe as my plotting friends explained how they outlined their books, the chapters, and even the scenes. I tried. Really I did. But my plotting dreams faded faster than a list of New Year Resolutions.
I started dealing with my writing the way I deal with my life. Right now, I write this from the hospital. I’m sitting with a family member and that means that I am NOT sitting in my office. I have set up my work in a “go office” so when situations like this come up I can still “go to work.”
I have done this with my non-fiction books. I write out the 8 to 10 high points I want to cover in each chapter – and sometimes even what I want to cover within those high points. I use a very similar outline process for my radio show.
Using it in fiction just seemed wrong – until I read through my latest WIP for the umpteenth time trying to get back in the groove. I determined to put some organization to my pantser ways.
Becoming an Organized Pantser
1. Utilize prompts. I may not know the exact path that I’m going to take, but I do know the general direction. Sometimes my prompt is a scene, sometimes it’s a potential encounter, sometimes it’s a character. Always it is an idea that will help me move forward in the story.
2. Write it down where you work. It is one thing to have the guidelines set out in my computer – but I RARELY use my computer to write my stories. I RE-WRITE in my computer. By adding the guidelines to my writing pad, it keeps it with me at all times. Any time I can work, I have the prompts/guidelines to get me going.
3. Find what works for you – because if it doesn’t work for you then you won’t work it. I like it short and simple. I write down just enough information to spark a memory but not so much that it restricts the flow into a predetermined path. I have a friend that uses images and another that uses phrases. If it works for you then make it your prompt.
4. Be comfortable with different – because you are. My writing doesn’t fit into a box any more than I fit into a box. I have to change up my prompts to fit my story, my situation, and sometimes my mood. It is okay.
Being an organized pantser is not as difficult as it might sound. One friend told me that an organized panters is simply one that sets out the pants the night before so that he (or she) can be ready to jump right in and get started.
Life happens and that happening interrupts the writing focus or the writing plan. Developing the habits of an organized pantser can allow you to get up and jump right in the next chance you get.
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