1. Justin Rocket 2

    Justin Rocket 2 Contributor Contributor

    Jun 13, 2013
    Likes Received:

    tension for pantsers

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Justin Rocket 2, Oct 31, 2015.

    I'm trying to write my current WIP as a pantser (I'm usually a plotter). One of the things I'm struggling with is overall plotting. My story is meandering. None of my acts are doing what they are supposed to be doing (the first act doesn't march towards the first plot point, the second act doesn't march towards the midpoint and then to the second plot point, I haven't gotten to the third act yet). My free-writing feels out of control like a fireman's hose wiggling all over the place and, while I've got some tension, it doesn't go anywhere.

    I ask you pantsers what do you do to address this problem in your own stories?
  2. Lea`Brooks

    Lea`Brooks Contributor Contributor

    May 11, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Virginia, United States
    I'm not a pantser. And by the way you're struggling, I'd guess you're not either. If it's not coming easily for you, don't push it. Try a different approach. Maybe go back to plotting.
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  3. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Supporter Contributor

    Jul 11, 2010
    Likes Received:
    Near Sedro Woolley, Washington
    I treat my first draft as if it were an outline. It's the vehicle I use to work out the story. I don't worry about tension, plotting, meandering, or anything like that until the first draft is done. I'm writing the first draft to find out what the story is about - as a pantser, when I start, I really don't have much of a clue about that.

    Once it's all down on paper, though, I can see the whole thing: characters, setting, theme, plot, etc. I begin the second draft confident I can get the plot and tension issues straightened out at that point. That's when the fun really starts!
    jannert likes this.
  4. DueNorth

    DueNorth Senior Member

    Jan 7, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Print it out--read it like a consumer, but with pen in hand. Be willing to "kill your darlings," or at very lease reorder things and be willing to rearrange. We all do it differently, but if it were me I'd be making a plot outline as I read. Be willing to end up with a wholly different product than you have now. If you have resources available to you of other writers who could read it (friend, writer's group, former instructor) get another set of eyes on it. Maybe set it aside for a week or so and work on something entirely different., then return to it fresh. Whatever you do, don't keep rambling. I know some will say just keep writing and clean it up later--but in my opinion the further you go down a dead end alley the harder it is to turn around and you will face a longer journey back to daylight
  5. Edward M. Grant

    Edward M. Grant Contributor Contributor

    Mar 18, 2012
    Likes Received:
    I think the simple solution is to start with two characters with conflicting goals locked in a room.

    With a setup (act one) like that, they have no choice but to fight (act two), and, eventually, one loses (act three).

    The important point is that only one of them can win, and they can't run away. The rest of the story should write itself.
  6. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

    Mar 7, 2013
    Likes Received:
    Well, as a pantser (pretty much) I did actually have an idea where my first novel was going when I started, although not exactly the path it would take. As my second one is a direct sequel, I don't have quite as much freedom as I did with the first, and I have outlined more than I did before. It's interesting for a pantser like me to work to an informal outline. I find it slightly restrictive, but it's a good exercise.

    I agree with @minstrel . Only when you are finished writing and look at what you've got will you recognise what your story actually is. If you pantsed it, you may have wasted lots of space writing stuff that doesn't fit, but the story that has emerged is likely to be organic and believable. One you see its shape, then you start to add transitions and remove digressions.

    The good thing about working to an outline is you don't tend to waste time or words. You go from A to Z in a straight line. It's an efficient way to write. The bad thing about sticking to an outline is that you won't be able to follow a rogue idea that comes to you later on and isn't part of the outline ...unless you break away from the outline and start pantsing. The danger with outlining is you end up writing to rule, and your work can have a churned-out feel to it. Your characters do what they're supposed to do, and nothing more or less.

    The good thing about pantsing is you start with an idea for a story, but let your characters and situation develop as you go. What you end up with may surprise you by saying exactly what you want to say, even though you didn't know what that was when you started. The bad thing about pantsing is you do generate a lot of words, situations, even characters, that will ultimately not matter. It's not an efficient way to write, although it doesn't have to be slow either. Just like you can be a slow outliner, you can also be a fast pantser! It can be more of a gamble to get to a polished and finished product—but there may be a stroke of the unexpected in the process that produces something rich and unforgettable.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2015
    Justin Rocket 2 and minstrel like this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice