Regarding Pants

pantsSo I’m a pantser.  Mind out of the gutter, people, I’m talking about the style of writing, the kind of writer opposed to “outliner” (as in “seat of the pants”).

Now, aside from the fact that being a pantser makes me sound vaguely like a pervert, I am content with pantsing, for the most part.  Writing my way into a plot is how I’ve always done it, after all.  Clearly, there are advantages and disadvantages to being either a pantser or an outliner.  Outliners are no doubt less likely to find themselves in literary cul de sacs, while pantsers are more used to throwing out large chunks of prose and doing things over if they do run into trouble.  Pantsers go where the muse leads, and write in a free-spirited, devil-may-care fashion, potentially discovering synergistic bits of wonderfulness, while outliners are less likely to end up with extraneous characters who have no real business in the book.

But one problem with being a pantser is that none of those “How to Write a Bestseller in 40 Days” books really work for us.  It is obviously easier to instruct someone on step by step writing if they already outline, or can figure out how to do so.  But it does a pantser no good, trying to follow steps that work for someone else.  Of course, we pantsers are tailor-made for the advice one gets in NaNoWriMo – “Just hurl words onto the page and see what happens!” and that sort of thing.  I pity the outliner who has to try to make sense of a bunch of random words they’ve forced themselves to spit out.

The whole business reminds me of the way things go in the cycling world, actually.  Cyclists are often told that the most efficient way to ride is in a lower gear with a higher cadance, and biomechanically, that is no doubt true, just as the most efficient way to write is likely to develop a careful plan ahead of time .  In both cases, I sometimes get the sense that well-meaning advice givers feel like I’m being contrarian.  But some people are just made to grind big gears and write with no particular plan.  We don’t mean anything by it, it’s just the way it is.



~ by smwilliams on September 5, 2013.

4 Responses to “Regarding Pants”

  1. When my son was in the first grade (a long time ago), his teacher handed out a sheet on parent night with at least fifteen different ways to learn spelling words, ranging from spelling them out loud (for verbal learners) to writing them down (for visual learners) to spelling them while bouncing a ball (for kinetic learners). The point wasn’t for the kids to use all the methods every week, but for them to experiment to figure out what works for them. Because once they used the method that worked for them, they could spell. I feel the same way about writing: once you figure out the method that works for you, you can write. But the list of fifteen makes me wonder … are there other ways than pantsing and outlining? Hmm … maybe I can invent a new writing method! 😉

    • So perhaps the “Write a Bestseller in 40 Days” people need to write about 16 volumes, one for each kind of writer they can think of. That could be profitable, although perhaps it might dilute the market.

  2. BTW, the way planners handle NaNo is to plan everything before November and then write like the blazes. At the rate my planning is going for my next big project, I might be ready to start writing by then …

    • Yes, but I feel like your ilk doesn’t get as much useful advice from the nano people themselves. Just like it is easier to write a book for an outliner, it is easier to give cheerleading advice in mid-November about getting stuff on the page to a pantser. There really isn’t much useful they can tell an outliner, as Thanksgiving looms, except “Plan better next year!”

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