Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Pros and Cons of Pantsing

Note: I'm sorry for the frequently changing backdrops for the blog. I'm still figuring things out, okay?

As some of you may already know, "pantsing" is when a writer writes without much of (or any of) a plan. A sort of initial idea, and the start writing the first draft pronto. Usually without any sort of outline, sometimes with no idea what the ending of the story will even be. It's a "fly by the seat of your pants" approach. From my interactions online it seems like a lot of writers are pantsers, so I feel a bit like a oddball in the sense that I am a "plotter" - I think of a story idea, think out the entire plot, write a outline, and THEN start on my first draft.
For the last couple weeks I've been operating on a different procedure, though. I've been pantsing, largely because I've been writing in a project that I don't really have a vision for and haven't been taking seriously. But now that I've had some experience, I would like to tell you my observations on this way of writing.

First, the cons.
It is easy to lose interest in the story. This could just be me, but without a real idea of where it is going I find it easy to lose interest in the story I'm writing. I like to be working towards something - a goal, a climax. Without a clear idea of where I'm going I just sort of write what I feel like when I feel like it and am totally disinterested the rest of the time.
Sometimes it gets a bit like that.
Sometimes you don't know what to write. In other words, you're more prone to writer's block. Say that you DO have some sort of end goal - an idea for the climax. But, without a outline (even a mental one) you're not sure how you're going to get there. As a result when you sit down to write, you're stuck staring at the screen trying to figure out what to write in order to advance the plot. This can be time-consuming and depressing.
As I said - depressing.

And now the pros.
You don't feel obligated to stick to an outline. Although you can change an outline and deviate from it, I, at least, have a tendency to stick to it pretty closely because it is easier to keep moving with my story that way. Without an outline you feel like you're sort of free-floating. You can go in any direction. Total freedom. Some people, I know, REALLY like this, but it may not be something you're after.
Or translate as: "Dobby has no outline. Dobby is a free writer."
The story feels like it develops more naturally. Because you don't spend hours upon hours brainstorming for an outline beforehand, you watch the story unfold as you write it. I actually DID enjoy this part of pantsing. You get to discover it a piece at a time. It feels less rigid and less contrived. However, at least with myself I have noticed that I have a tendency to write scenes I find interesting and only those scenes. This can result in a LOT of cleanup come revision time. Still, it can be nice to just explore.

This was a bit of a traipse into unknown territory for me. But I'm glad I did it. I don't think I'm going to be pantsing my serious projects but it was nice to explore my opposite side of the coin. 

And I have one announcement. Aimee Meester of To the Barricade! and I are working together on a series of collaborative blog posts about the ways people act because of their separate Myers-Briggs traits. So how Is behave vs. Es, how Ns behave versus Ss, etc. We need people to interview for each trait, but we need people with strong preferences (preferably 50% or more). If you'd be interested in helping out, leave a comment with your percentage strengths for each trait. 

What about you? Are you a pantser or a plotter? What do you like/dislike about each method? 


  1. It probably won't surprise you to know that I'm a huge, huge pantser. xD In fact, I have the worst trouble EVER planning things. It makes for long, difficult editing and rewriting later, but it works for me, so. *shrugs* I like the benefit of actually knowing what's happening with plotting, because I do have trouble knowing what to write next occasionally, but I also like the freedom of being able to just spill my guts and worry about editing later.

    1. Lol, it doesn't surprise me at all. xD I think I feel the same way - it's nice not to have to worry about following any specific plot line. Thanks for reading. :)

  2. I'm a pantser, but as I work the story out I tend to plan ahead in my mind. I like having the freedom to let it come as it comes, but know that its going to follow a plan I already have- hopefully. It does mean I tend to ramble sometimes, which makes editing horrible :(

    MBTI posts sounds awesome!! If you need any help, I am 99% introvert, 5% Intuitive, 67% Thinking and 87% Judging. Also, I love the white you have added :) Makes it nice for my poor eyes who seem to be giving up easily all of a sudden, which is kind of scary.

    1. Thanks! That's definitely helpful; you're on the list. And great! I figured black was a little dark to look professional so I think the white will be sticking around.