My Transition to Pantster – aaaack! is all I can say

splash-in-glass-1417705-mIt’s been said there’s two ways of looking at things: the glass is half full, and the glass is half empty. No one ever told me there’s such a thing as your glass is dribbling all over the carpet.

Since I announced that I was going to try writing from the heart and transition from write-itor (someone who writes, edits, writes, edits) to pantster (someone who lets the story flow without regard for the Internal Editor and edits later), many of you have asked me to keep you up to date on progress.




This is a straaaaange way to write. For me, anyway. See, I’m a suspense writer and have lots of details in my books. Threads and red herrings and clues, all of which have to be wrapped up by book’s end–maybe with an additional twist thrown in. So, as I try to pantster my way through the latest story, I find I’m writing more notes than I usually do to keep track of my threads. I’m also inserting notes into my writing such as:

insert more description here
up the suspense; needs more conflict
add setting and mood
oh, and, this is my favorite one,
write something here

Really? Write something here??

A sign things have started dribbling all over the carpet.

notes-on-wood-4-529092-mIn all honesty, I’m not sure what I think about panstering. I love the idea of free-flow writing. There’s a lot more flexibility and freedom in writing this way. But, and this is a big but, there’s the worry I’ll miss important details and loose ends that need to be wrapped up later. Which explains why I’m writing more and more notes. I swear, I’ve got two whole pages of them now. Count ’em. TWO.

busy-businessman-1-1125736-mI’m not giving up the good fight, though. I’m going to write this book as a pantster until the very end. I need to experience this in its entirety to decide whether or not I’ll do another one in this manner. But I can tell you this: I’m absolutely flummoxed over how authors can write this way and actually have a coherent story by The End. I think they have a different brain. 🙂

In my case, I think the editing for this book will be the deal-breaker on how I write future books because I’m expecting them to be h-e-a-v-y.

Stay tuned for more “Writing by the Seat of My Pants”.

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About terriponce

I write about secrets, suspense, and soulmates.
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14 Responses to My Transition to Pantster – aaaack! is all I can say

  1. Terri, I had to laugh! You know, my romance stories are character-driven and come “from the heart.” However, I always do a synopsis/outline first and develop the plot; I have never been a panster. Despite that, all of my novels require serious revising, no matter how much editing I do along the way. So, don’t despair. Do what’s comfortable, natural, and works for you as a writer. Please yourself first, and your novel will turn out the way you want…eventually.


  2. Ms Mahler says:

    Well, good for you for trying it. I gave up on pantsing back in high school – I kept writing myself into dead ends and stuff. Outlining didn’t work to well either, so I have a process that’s kind of in between the two – work out a general structure without any details, and fill in the details free form as I write and rewrite.

    I am insanely impressed by anyone who can make pantsing work, and look forward to hearing more about your journey.


  3. Claire says:

    I consider myself a panster, but i write/edit all the way through. Maybe i lean more toward pathfinder, but I never thought of panster as not editing while you write. I have no major outline in the beginning, use a spreadsheet to track story flow, characters, check for consistency, etc. I’m going to use Scrivener with my next project, which lets you do all that organizational stuff within one tool. As I recently read, and think fits, for a panster, the first draft is the outline!


  4. R.T. Wolfe says:

    Nice post, Terri. I try to be a planner, but my characters have their own ideas. Hang in there!
    -R.T. Wolfe


  5. Stay with it, Terri! I never thought of defining myself either way when I was a newspaper reporter and editor. In that writing, it’s pretty much all panster and was the only way I knew how to write. In my current WIP the protag has occasional flashbacks to a violent rape. Yesterday I wrote a scene where she hyperventilates and passses out before her lover can get a paper bag for her to breathe in. When she comes to, he’s holding it over her face and her first reaction is deliberate suffocation. Added a lot to the recurring theme of trust and kept up the tension between them.
    It’s not a scene I’d ever have outlined.
    One thing I do is reread at least the last chapter before I begin writing again, and will put notes in BIG RED type like “AWK. fix this!”.
    My characters continually suprise me…just like real life.
    Fingers crossed for you…it’s an adventure!


    • terriponce says:

      Oh Michele. Adventure is right! For me, if I go back and reread the previous chapter, the write-itor in me comes out and I’ll get right back into old habits. So, for now, I’m not doing that. Such an experience.


  6. I can’t imagine making the switch all at once and so drastically! While there is definitely something to be said for free-flow writing, which is what I’ve done during NaNo a time or two, writing without a guide would be like driving without a map (or GPS) for me. I’d get totally lost.

    When I started writing, I was a detailed outliner. I, too, had a tendency to go back and edit when I ran into a problem caused by something earlier in the book. But that took away a lot of spontaneity. When I finished (if I finished), the book read to me like it was a fill-in-the-blank project.

    That said, there is a middle ground, which I’ve heard called “Pathfinder.” A pathfinder lays out major scenes and plot points, but doesn’t outline a lot of detail before she starts to write. I used that method with my current WIP and (I hate to say this) revision is definitely hell. I suppose it doesn’t help that I wrote the draft over two years with gaps in writing time due to the day job and personal issues.

    I’ll be watching to see how you progress with this book and what you decide once you finish it.


    • terriponce says:

      Thanks for taking the time to give such a great comment, Elise. I think over time I may transition to Pathfinder. I’ve never heard this term before, but I think it could make for a happy middle ground — if I ever get there.


  7. This is beyond scary way to write as a suspense writer, you’re right. And this is exactly how I wrote 3 going on 4 books working on a 5th. And I, too, make tons of notes going along, pages stuffed in a folder, comment notes left in then manuscript as I go. I learned long ago if I try to edit as I go or have the whole story plotted and outlined, I won’t write it. This isn’t an easy task for someone who isn’t used to it, and you’re probably right. When you hit the editing stage you won’t go back. LOL! Good luck!


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