In the world of writing I’m what they call a “pantser”. A pantser is someone who writes by “the seat of their pants” with no planning or plotting in sight. Those who do plot are, naturally, called plotters.
Now, you see, I’ve always found it odd that I’m a pantser. I’m one who loves to stay organized. Making lists is one of my most favorite things to do. Keeping track of things, having it all straight, making plans ahead of time, that’s what makes me happy. That’s how I function in life. I am a perfectionist after all. But when it comes to writing, it’s as if I’m a totally different person.
With writing that caution gets tossed, or more liked hurled, away in the wind, and my natural planning self right along with it. When I start writing I usually have a plot figured out and know who my characters are, but that’s it. All the details, big and small, reveal themselves to me as I’m writing. I write my novels as if I’m a first time reader whose only knowledge of the story is the back cover blurb (and sometimes I don’t even have enough plot to know that much). When a plot twist takes place or the villain makes an unexpected appearance or a character suddenly dies (eep) it’s just as a surprise to me as it would be a new reader.
I’ve tried plotting. I still try plotting. For every NaNoWriMo I make a full outline for my novel because the idea of trying to pants a novel during such a challenge terrifies me. I make bios for my characters with full descriptions of their personalities and backgrounds and all. I’ve planned out entire fantasy worlds. I’ve made full out maps. I’m even right now attempting to make in-depth timelines for the characters in a particular book. But then when I actually start writing the story all my plans and plotting explode.
Whenever I outline a book things happen that I totally did not expect. And said things often want to change the story entirely and just throw the outline in the trash. As I write about already planned out characters they reveal something of their past that totally blows my measly little plans for them out of the water. While exploring a fantasy world during the writing process I discover the places I thought I had planned are entirely different. In fact, I really did have to scrap one of my maps and completely remake it one time. And just this week I was exploring one of my main character’s background in more detail, I had his timeline written out and everything, but as I wrote a scene from his past an important, painstaking part of the timeline I spent much thought on turned out to be utterly wrong. The character looked at the timeline, shook his head, and told me clearly that was not how the events took place. So rewrite some of his timeline I did (and that was not the first time I had to change events of his past).
So this is what happens when I try to plan, it all goes in the recycle bin while my stories and characters are laughing at my expense at all the surprises they throw at me.
…And I kind of like it.
It confuses me that I rather enjoy being a pantser over a plotter. I like having plans and organization in place, remember? But with writing I’m a different person. Even though I do plan some things and it can be helpful (you know, until my characters inform me it’s all wrong), I really love nothing more than staring at a blank word document with a world of discovery ahead of me. We all love reading books for the first time, right? Sure, it’s always fun rereading and visiting the people and places we know and love, but there’s something magical about that first time, that anticipation of the unknown. That’s how it is with writing for me. When I plan, it takes away the excitement of discovering new things. I think plotting’s great, and I very much admire all those plotters out there, sometimes I even envy them, but when a character jumps out at me with a completely unexpected, exciting surprise, I realize pantsing will always be my own personal favorite way to write.
I rather like being a reckless writer. It’s fun to throw away the rules and go on a wild ride. Being surprised at every turn is the very thing that keeps my fingers clacking on those keys. I mean, what’s better than making new discoveries every day? Being a writer is pretty great.
Even when your stories explode.