I was pleasantly surprised by my pantsing experience, but I’ve also hated it in equal measure. There were times when I thought I would not find an end for the book, and that made the thousands of words I had written feel like a waste of time. There were also times when I just had to write it out to see if it was heading in the right direction, knowing I might have to (and sometimes did) axe all those words.
The whole time I was writing I felt like I had no control. There were times when I got a glimpse maybe four or five chapters ahead, and then I felt comfortable, but there were just as many times I sat down at the computer with no idea what I was going to write. For a control freak that is terrifying.
The dislike of this out-of-control feeling but the love of the speed led me to look for the real difference between planning and pantsing, so that I might be able to find some kind of plantsing medium.
This is what I concluded; when you get an idea for a novel you turn it over in your head, you ask the question ‘what happens next’. If you are a planner, you write the answer to that question in note form in a book that you probably bought especially for the purpose. If you are a pantser, you ask yourself the question when you sit down at the keyboard to write the next chapter. That’s pretty much it. For the pantser the first draft is really just an elaborate plan. Likewise, the planner’s plan is their pantsing first draft, but significantly shorter.
I think the real problem for me comes from the type of story teller I am. As soon as I have the story documented I feel like it has been written, so the aching urge to finish it dulls. That ‘documentation’ might take the form of a 60,000 word pantsing first draft, or it might be a two page dot-point summary. And when all is said and done it is always going to be easier to turn that 60,000 word first draft/plan into a tight, finished novel than the two page synopsis.
So the next thing I will try is to think long and hard about my next novel. I will watch it unfold in my head and maybe note down parts but not the whole story, and certainly not the ending. I want to know the ending, but I will not write it down. Let’s see if that can help me get the good bits of pantsing, with the comfort of planning.