Come Fly the Pants Skyway

I discovered recently that there are two methods of writing, and just like in any other faction, everyone insists that their way rules and the other way drools.

First, let me explain the two philosophies in brief, so you understand what I mean. First, there are the ‘Pantsers.’ Charmingly short for, “Flies by the seat of your pants.” These writers are riding the right brain highway, using their creativity as their sole guide through the process.

Next, there are the ‘Plotters,’ and as their name suggests, they like to plot and plan. They are the strategists, the types who use flow charts, character profiles, and a lot of pre-work to begin their story.

I am a pantser. That’s all I’ve really ever known how to do. I shaped the stories in my head and got them down on paper. There are all kinds of panters – poets, short story fiction, even novelists.  It’s a romantic notion, flying by the seat of your pants. The idea of creating an entire world inside your mind, and giving it life, is terrifying and delightful.

Having written two novels this way, I can also tell you it’s exhausting. Pantsers are prone to writer’s block and frustration when a character doesn’t stay consistent. Great ideas can be lost when one has to sleep or go to work, and not many of us have the luxury of being uninterrupted all day. Plots that sound great in your head often find ways of dissolving into unintelligibility on paper, as you scratch your head and wonder what exactly you wanted to convey.

So, I’m defecting. I’ve flown the Pants Skyway, and it’s hard.

Plotting is hard too, but it’s organized.  Time is spent examining the story from all angles, and jotting down notes so that later, you can go back and reference, and spark your memory about what the Bad Guy was supposed to do or what the Device is used for. It requires a lot of focus, but it’s also a creative endeavor. Writer’s Block and frustration can bedevil this process, as well, but having notes to riff from helps overcome those obstacles.

Of course, I have no idea whether this shift will be an improvement for my work, but I believe it will. I certainly think it’s worth a try.

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