Finding my way back to the inner pantser

In the writing industry, there are two common types of authors; the planners and the pantsers. If you haven’t heard of the latter term, it applies to writers to let the story emerge without really thinking about it. Whilst some individuals prefer to meticulously plan every chapter, draw up character sheets and have a detailed concept before they even start to write, pantsers normally have a few important story milestones to reach, a character or two at most and then just write. J. K Rowling is a famous planner of her novels, creating spreadsheets to easily guide her writing. I, however, am a complete pantser. I’ve never been able to plan a book in my life, and the idea of sitting down and writing out a chapter by chapter summary before I’ve even started makes me shudder. I actually don’t think I could even do it because many of my ideas spark from creative thought as I’m in the process of writing my fantasy novels.

Writing a series = Pantser freak out

However, herein lies the problem. Writing a standalone novel isn’t too tough if you just have to sit down and let the words flow. You can tighten up aspects of your book when you’re doing the edit. But, when you’re writing a series, all manner of complications begin to arise.

Spirits of the Middlelands is now progressing nicely, and I’m about one third of the way through (Hooray). Inside Evil was pretty easy to write, The Tower of Souls practically fell out of my mind and onto the page, and Spirits of the Middlelands? Gosh – it’s been causing me problems. I’m not sure whether it’s because I took time out to write CRYO and Pacifier 6, or whether I’m trying to wind so many strands of information together that it’s blowing my brain, but getting the flow has been hard.

So many threads

Spirits of the Middlelands is the third novel in a five book series, and whilst being the middle segment, there’s a lot to factor in. There are questions that need to be resolved from The Tower of Souls, for example. How did the Queen of the North Realms survive? Why was the girl able to cross over? Will the portal in the basement now be a doorway between worlds? These are all questions that need to be answered.

Then there is the lore around the Ammokra itself. What is it? Where did it start? Can it be stopped?

Then there are the individual story elements of each novel which need to tie together so you get the ‘Aha’ moments. Characters need to be progressed; Martha needs to be developed as a Gatekeeper, Roberta needs to prepare herself for life in hiding, Karl just needs to find an actual role in life.

Time to breathe

I’ve spoken about the threads as they’ve really begun to become problematic. How on earth can I write freely when there are so many elements that I’ve got to try and include? It’s for that reason that I’ve suffered major writer’s block for a couple of weeks. I like sitting down and watching Martha and Susan drink gin, or Roberta and Sam solving problems. I don’t want to feel as if I’m pulling teeth to get them to say or do anything.

Luckily, I’ve realised that the planning needs to step back, that I can go through the intricacies of the story in editing. That’s the time to add the little nuances and important features that will wind the entire series together. For now, I’m sitting back and let the characters do their own thing again, and truth be told, it’s working. Martha’s acting odder than ever, Roberta’s becoming more feisty and even Karl’s created an entire storyline that was never planned. This is the way I like it.

So what’s the entire point of this post? Basically, it’s to say; Don’t force it. I was trying far too hard to MAKE the story work instead of it letting it CREATE itself. Don’t stress on the first draft…just run with your thoughts and sort out the details later. You’d think I’d have known this by now…obviously not.

Are you a planner or a pantser? Let me know in the comments!

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4 responses to “Finding my way back to the inner pantser

  1. Geoff, I’m with you on this one. I’m a panster/pantser? Not sure which is the right word. I write by the seat of my pants, with a basic outline, character list with basic descriptions and maybe a half a dozen short paragraphs about what I’m trying to achieve. My first three books, I was in the zone, and just wrote them like one long story. Then I went back and thought, OMG, it actually flows well! I had to plug a few holes, pad out some characters and some scenes. But I found by having most of it down I was able to see the whole story and could then go back and change stuff to make more sense. The beauty of it is you can adapt the whole story when you have it all written and to me it makes it stronger.

    • I’m glad it’s worked for you….it gives me hope that I can go back and fill out plot holes without worry. I’ve been so caught up trying to get all the elements of the story in, that I haven’t been able to write.
      Here’s to the pantsers!! :))

  2. Pantser.

    Best way to kill a book, in my estimation — micro-management, especially with respect to characters. They need to breathe and have to be able to tell you what they want, not the other way around. My planner/pantser technique is pretty fluid. It depend on the book itself, what needs in a particular place.

    How are you doing on Squidoo? Noticed your lenses haven’t updated in quite a while and no new ones. Don’t give up. I have four up and am working on several more. Decided to devote this month almost entirely to Squidoo to get me up and running.

    • I completely agree on the micro-management aspect, yet still I come across authors who do it on an incredible level of detail. I simply couldn’t if I tried!

      I’m glad you brought up Squidoo. I have been slacking. *wrist slapped* You’ve given me some encouragement to update some lenses, and create some more. I actually need to create one for CRYO and the new novella, so I’ll get on to that tomorrow! :)

      Oh…and thanks for the selling correction!

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