Confessions of a Pantser

Sometimes I feel I should get out and meet other similar people on a regular basis. Perhaps we’d arrange our chairs in a crescent, in the middle would be our group leader who has suffered and came through the other side in one piece. They would provide reassurance for us. They would put together a twelve-step program; we’d be given a sponsor to help us out of those tough times. If there was such a place as Pantsers Anonymous, I certainly feel I should be a member.

I often wonder if any fellow pantsers out there feel similar feelings of shame and indulgence — as if we are doing something illicit and ultimately bad for us — by not plotting and planning things out. I wonder if I will ever dispel these feelings. This morning I sat down with the intention of adding another 1,000 words to my draft. But what actually happened was that I was thrust into a darkened room sitting alongside my protagonist. Two other characters we’ve met along the way were also there. But they turned out to be less than friendly. I didn’t know what would happen. The situation was threatening. I was experiencing the trepidation along with the main character. Not only because I didn’t know where the words would come from, but because I had no idea what these people were capable of.

Now I am near the end of the draft. I am in wind down mode. I am looking at all those loose ends and gargantuan sink holes that litter the streets of my plot wondering how I’m going to fill in and tie everything together. Wrapping things up is different from unravelling and unwinding. There is a certain reassurance to it, in the same way you know a storm has passed, and the clean up may begin. But it isn’t without surprises. For what is writing without the occasional jolt of excitement when even we — as the writer — think ‘wow, I didn’t see that coming.’

Will I ever recover? I don’t know if I want to. Sometimes I envy those people who have sketched out their scenes, plot points, sighted the doorways, and scouted ahead for those twists and turns in the road ahead as I look at my page of half-hearted notes with a sense of inadequacy. I mean, who doesn’t want safety and security? The problem is I’ve always been a bit of a risk taker. When it comes to writing, I have no issue standing at the edge and casting everything into the storm. And seeing what happens. It’s exhilarating. Isn’t it? And yet it can also devastate. It can destroy. It can demoralise. It can all end in tears. We could lose everything this way. And that feeling is addictive. Sometimes I need it. And although I’ve gotten a little better — making notes, thinking ahead a little — I’m not sure I can ever really stop. I’ve tried. I really have.

I can only conclude then that your preferred method of writing is more than what is the right or wrong way — for there is no right or wrong. It is more about how you feel about things. How you approach all situations in life. As writers we put everything we have into the words, into the ideas. We tear ourselves into pieces and resemble them into paragraphs until we inhabit other souls in other worlds — what a strange choice of profession this is.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song


3 Replies to “Confessions of a Pantser”

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