1. TheDoctor97
    Offline

    TheDoctor97 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2012
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    The Earth.

    A Question About Pantsing?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by TheDoctor97, Dec 24, 2012.

    I'm a planner. Through and through. I like to know what I'm writing before I do it. However, my outlines normally take me ages and ages to write, because I can't figure out the scenes beforehand. It's just super difficult for me. I was thinking about trying to pants a novel (or at least a good 50k of one) in January. Just to test it out, and see what happens. Because when I'm actually writing my books, they almost never actually follow my outlines. They veer off path, and I end up rearranging everything, adding scenes, subtracting scenes, and changing endings altogether. Sometimes I feel as if I'm already a pantser, just a more structured one.

    Though I do have a question. And I realize that it would be up to the individual person. But do you, personally, take notes as you write? Do you get ideas for scenes as you go along, and you write them down so you don't loose them? Is that how it works for you? Or what? How do YOU pants a novel?
     
  2. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I'm a pantser. When I get an idea for a scene that the story isn't yet ready for, I go ahead and type it out and save it. Then when I'm ready for the scene, I add it in. Occasionally, the story is never ready for the scene, and it ends up not quite fitting in. In that case, I just have the scene stay out, but it's there in the sense that it's 'background' or additional stuff that happened, even though it's not disclosed to the ultimate reader.
     
  3. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    I don't plan either. And yes, if I think of something I might be able to use later on, I definitely make note of it. If it turns out it won't fit in (since I never really know where the story will end up), I can always use it for some other story. Heck, it might be the start for a new story!

    "Sometimes I feel as if I'm already a pantser, just a more structured one." = This is the big thing with writing. No one is an Absolute Planner or an Absolute Pantser. You figure out what works best for you and the story you're writing. What works for one story may fail for the next.
     
  4. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    ...sometimes... but not always...

    ...yes, to the first part... re the second part, i get the ideas as i go, when it's time to use them...

    ...first of all, to me, the term 'pants' or 'pantsing' is nonsensical... i know it's been downsized from 'flying by the seat of your pants' and applied to writing, but it's silly in the extreme, imo... that is mostly how i write books, nevertheless... in fact, i'm ghostwriting a novel for a client, as we speak, and am writing it following a skeleton outline... and that is needed because the plot is very complex, the main and secondary characters comparatively many... and if i didn't have an outline of sorts to follow, it would be too easy to get tangled up in subplots, timeline, et al....

    ...i don't use any notes or outline for shorter works...
     
  5. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    I have a general file, with snippets of dialogue, scene ideas, plot ideas, anything unrelated goes in there. Then I have a main file with everything that pertains to the current novel. There I add things that might come in useful. Every time I didn't write something down. I regretted it.
     
  6. Thomas Kitchen
    Offline

    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2012
    Messages:
    1,258
    Likes Received:
    422
    Location:
    I'm Welsh - and proud!
    Definitely works like that for me. Sometimes I'll be half-way through writing a scene when another idea pops into my head, and I have to write it down. One word of warning, though: EXPECT your novel to veer off the path. I plan my novels as well (a few months of note-taking and then two weeks to a month of writing everything down in one place for future reference) but they never, ever turn out the way I expect them to. But that's a nice feeling - knowing that it's almost your characters that guide the story with their actions and thoughts, and not your writing especially. And that's good, because it means you want to write this novel and that it's coming alive.

    Yay for writing!

    Thomas
     
  7. afrodite7
    Offline

    afrodite7 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2010
    Messages:
    126
    Likes Received:
    2
    - I thought I was the only one who did this.I ususally plan things out.It's just that I have too much happening and always have to cut it short
     
  8. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    First, the topic heading. To me, pantsing has nothing to do with seat-of-the pant writing. Pantsing is yanking someone's trousers down about their ankles.

    May I suggest "winging it"?

    I primarily wing it. I do my best writing when I have a general goal in mind, but work out the details moment by moment as I go. I will have researched somethings in advance, and written them down. Because I write science fiction, my settings often require some advance planning and even calculations for the degree of realism I seek.

    But in terms of the story itself, spontaneity is a cherished jewel I want to include whenever possible.
     
  9. E. C. Scrubb
    Offline

    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2012
    Messages:
    413
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Southwest US
    I used to start from the beginning and just go for it. What I found was that it's too easy to write myself into a corner doing that. I went and found Scrivener, it's a software program that lets me plan stuff out, move chapters around, do research, mark chapters for what characters are in them, use notecards, etc. I haven't written a novel from it, but I have a couple things that I'm in the process of doing, and I really like it. I've developed a system where I write out the plot in one sentence. Then I pull each major word or phrase from that sentence and expand on it, what does it mean, what are my plans for this person, situation, conflict, etc. etc. Then I add the rest of the major characters and put into a list form the big movements. It doesn't even matter if their in order yet, just the things that I want them to deal with or go through.

    After that I read through everything and ask where the plot holes are, is the conflict strong enough, can my characters carry the storyline, etc. etc. I then go back and fill in the lists with paragraphs, the issues that need filling out, or the broad movements, etc. After that, I'll add a few more things if I need to, then try to organize it chronologically. Each entry then gets grouped, and the number of groups equal the chapters (I'll add chapters later if scenes get expanded).

    Now when I go back to write a chapter, I have the general movement of what needs to happen in the chapter, but I also have the complete freedom to let my characters determine how they get there themselves as I write.

    Hope that makes sense.
     
  10. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,685
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    I have written four novels by winging it, with what I have to honestly regard as uneven results. That is, there are moments in each that I unabashedly regard as brilliant, and others that are less than satisfactory. In my current project, I have planned things out much more carefully than in the past, but even with that I allow for the previously unearthed thought that fits what I am trying to do.
     
  11. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Ha! I agree that I *hate* the term, but it does seem to have developed quite a following in the world of writers, as I have heard it fairly frequently in numerous milieus. But, I know what is meant, so I just go with the question.
     
  12. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    i have to wonder if that's only among 'new' writers... and the younger ones, to boot...
     
  13. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    I'd never heard the term until I got onto the various writing forums. I actually prefer the word "organic", but non-planner works just fine, really.
     
  14. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    There's a certain amount of cross-pollination among writing forums, and nonsensical terms can surely take root that way.
     
  15. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    It would be tempting to think that, and again, I really dislike the term. But just anecdotally, I first heard it in a discussion started by (and the term used by) a published writer who is in his 50s.

    In trying to come up with a term I prefer, I've realized that there isn't a good noun for a writer who doesn't outline, but just writes as she goes. "Planner" works so well as a succinct way to get the idea across. "Non-planner" seems somehow slightly dissatisfactory, but I agree with Shadow in that I prefer it to 'pantser.'
     
  16. Jon Deavers
    Offline

    Jon Deavers Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2012
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Richmond, VA
    An alternative term I've heard is "discovery writer". Discovering the story as you go along. I don't really have a problem with the term "pantser" but I am new at this (not at writing but at writing seriously).

    Personally I chalk up my inability to finish a project to "pantsing". I don't know where the story is supposed to go so when I hit a stumbling point I just throw in the towel. I've got a project that I've started several times without any real planning and since the idea was persistent enough I decided to build an outline and then try to write around that. While it's far from being complete, I've made more progress than ever because I have an outline. When I hit a stumbling block I go to the outline, massage the story line, and make it work. I can't see myself ever "pantsing" again, except maybe for free-writing exercises.
     
  17. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    i don't like 'discovery' since it seems to imply 'accidental' finding of words that are just lying around waiting to be noticed, when the opposite of a 'planner' is really a writer who thinks up the words and the story as s/he goes...
     
  18. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    "Discovery writer" doesn't sound quite right to me, either. It's not self-evident what, exactly, it means without further context. Also, 'discovery' is used as an adjective to modify 'writer,' so as far as a parallel word to accompany 'planner' it still doesn't completely fit the bill.
     
  19. Phoenix Hikari
    Offline

    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2012
    Messages:
    333
    Likes Received:
    6
    I'm definitely not a planner. I don't really keep any notes of any scenes in any stories I write. However, I do take notes, just general headlines of what I am thinking of doing. It is much more fun to 'wing' it than to sit down and plan the whole thing. It feels like reading a story as well as writing it.
    I seem to have started a knack for drawing my scenes rather than writing them, that really seem to help in visualizing the events.
     
  20. Nicholas C.
    Offline

    Nicholas C. Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2011
    Messages:
    209
    Likes Received:
    5
    I think that, like many things, a balance is the optimal way to go. Being too much of a planner takes away from the in-the-moment type of creativity that one can tap into when writing. Rigid approaches like the "Snowflake Method" are simply that -- rigid. On the flip side, being too much of a "pantser" can lead to a whole host of problems, not least of which is getting halfway through your draft and discovering that it is a convoluted mess.

    I prefer to have a "WIP notes" document that consists of a) a two to three paragraph abstract or back-cover blurb (whichever you prefer) b) a flexible list of chapters that include a paragraph summary for each (it's not important to have every one of them planned out, just the ones that are upcoming. Think of it like driving a car: you don't have to look a mile down the road, only at what's in front of you) and c) a section for plot corrections and plot notes as they come to me.

    The important thing for me is not only having a document like this to turn to, but also knowing that it's a "living" document. It's not set in stone and can, and should, be changed as needed.
     
  21. TheDoctor97
    Offline

    TheDoctor97 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2012
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    The Earth.
    Thanks to everyone that responded to my question. It really helped curb my curiosity, and really helped me better understand how to do it.

    Also, I guess I didn't realize how much people considered the word pantsing to describe writing a novel without an outline. I've always called it that, but only because that was the only way I had ever heard it described. I always thought it was a bit weird as well, but I just went with it, because I figured no one would know what I was talking about if I said anything different. Personally, I like the term 'discovery writing' a bit better than 'pansting'. You learn something new every day. :)
     
  22. Jon Deavers
    Offline

    Jon Deavers Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2012
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Richmond, VA
    I agree with all of this especially about the outline being a living document. I think people tend to view the outline as inflexible and that turns them off of using one. To me it seems a lot easier to modify your outline as needed when you write the chapters than it is to rewrite whole chunks of narrative to make your rough draft coherent.
     

Share This Page