Procrastination or pantser?

I’m sitting here writing this blog when I should be writing on my next book. I know this. So why do I persist in ignoring my inner voice that tells me to write. Because I don’t know what I’m going to write.

You see, I’m a pantser. So I get stuck easily. I don’t plot because every time I do, I don’t want to write the book anymore because in my mind it’s already been done. I know it doesn’t make sense; it’s just how my mind works.

I’d love to be a plotter, know what the scene is before I write it, know where the book is going. I know the beginning and the end. I write romance. All of my books end with a happily ever after. It would be so much easier. At least that’s what I think, but I know some of my critique partners are plotters and they still struggle with scenes as much as I do. They may have a general idea what the scene should be but not the exact layout of it. Who says what to whom, where they are standing, who else may show up in the scene.

Maybe what they really are is a plantser. In other words a combination of the two. They might have the general idea for all the scenes but no details. They fly with the wind and write the scene and move on to the next one. They might have one line for the scene, i.e. Bob meets Carol, Bob and Carol make love, Bob loses Carol because he won’t admit his feelings for her, Bob discovers he can’t live without Carol, Bob admits his love for her, Carol forgives Bob, they live happily ever after. To me this is a plantser.

Whoops! Got sidetracked again. Just showing my procrastination. Did you ever see the movie UP? In it is a dog who can talk but his attention span is that of a gnat. Any squirrel gets his immediate attention and he says “Squirrel” and takes off after it. That’s me. Squirrel. I’m out chasing after it rather than doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

Ah well. Such is the life of a pantser. I’ll get back to my book and I’ll make my deadline. I always do. Maybe everyone needs some time to procrastinate, to let the story percolate in their minds before they can get it on the page, whether you are a pantser, plotter or plantser.

So what kind of writer are you? Leave me a comment, tell me what you are and why you like writing as pantser, plotter or plantser. I’m giving away a $5 Starbucks card to one lucky commenter and a copy of my latest book, TAME A WILD BRIDE to another.

31 thoughts on “Procrastination or pantser?

  1. I would have to say I’m on the plantser part of the spectrum. I can plot ahead enough to write a synopsis of the overall story arc, so I know where the story is headed. However, once I’ve written the synopsis, I rarely look at it again. I prefer to let the story unfold through the eyes of my characters as I write. I know the ultimate destination, but the journey and how I get there there is always a surprise.

    • I’m trying to be a plantser. Trying to write down ideas for scenes before I write them. Maybe to even have more than one scene at a time in my head and on the paper.

  2. I’m a pantser too! And I should be writing my novel for CampNaNo. Basically I have the story in my head and have the beginning and ending written, but pops up in the middle, who knows! I write romance also and love the happily ever after, except I’m on the second book of a series and there are only “happy for now endings”, that is until the fourth book, which I wrote first! Great post! Now quit procrastinating and get to writing! Maybe I should take my own advice… Oh well have a great day, I am off to write. 🙂

  3. I have a general idea of where the book is going: beginning, end, plot points. For the book I’m currently editing, I started out with notes (including a character who never made it into the book) a list of scenes that would have been a third of the way through the book (I had 19 noted). I actually used some of them – the first 6 or so, maybe. Then the thing took off.

    How I work is, I play through the scene I’m about to write in my head (it runs like a movie). I also make notes for the next couple of scenes, though I generally don’t “run” them. Then I write the scene. Sometimes I simply start writing from the notes.

    From my observations, plotters do more work up front and have fewer revisions than pantsers of all sorts. But, hey, I’m stuck with the head I’ve got.

  4. In the past I’ve sat down and written the book from beginning to end, following what my head told my hands to do. I knew pretty much where the story was going, and also some key scenes/discussions/events along the way. For my current WIP I’ve been writing scenes instead of going from beginning to end. It’s helped me with my characters but I’m finding it’s also changing the story a little. For the good, I think since the original idea would have created unsympathetic heroine and hero. So yeah maybe it hasn’t been a total waste. And yeah, I should be writing now. Oooh, hummingbird!!

  5. I’m a plotter-panstser hybrid. Mostly, I fly by the seat of my pants, but I do have a VERY loose outline I use that tells me where the tension points should go. I may know which scenes I want to write, but perhaps not which order I want to put them in.

    Lately I’ve broken out of the shell of writing a linear story. Sometimes I have to skip past the climax, write the end and the scenes right before it, and then go back to the denouement and get it down.

  6. I’m definitely a pantser. I jot a few notes to get started, flesh out my characters, decide the setting for my opening scene, pick a few things that may/may not happen throughout the rest of the novel and wing it.

    I am guaranteed to hit sheer panic mode at the 3/4 point where I realize I have to tie up all the loose plot threads I hadn’t seen coming. Somehow, they always have a way of working themselves out. Don’t think I will ever be a plotter but I could see myself transforming into a planster!

    • You are just like me Mae. Sometimes, I don’t even have the notes. Just a title. I almost always have the title of the book, even if it changes before the end, it starts with a title. Then I start, what if…

  7. I am a panther, but oddly enough, not a procrastinator…unless I have to write something other than a book. Right now I owe the local newspaper an article, but cannot seem to plant my backside in front of the computer. Argggghhh…

  8. Never type a note on an iPad without thoroughly reviewing it. I know this and still I let my iPad decide I meant panther, not pantser. Double arggghhh…

  9. I say I’m a panster, but I visualized almost the whole scene in my mind before I write it and then write it. Sometimes it goes where my visual went, sometimes not. But I only ever go one scene at a time. Maybe I’m a visi-pants.

  10. Former pantser, current plantser! I love writing without planning, as the story tends to take a course of its own. But that method is not working with my current work-in-progress and I’m finding some plotting necessary. I love the suggestion above by Mona Karel about writing scenes. I’ve been yearning to do that on this current project.

    Great blog. Found you through Twitter and will be back!

    • Thanks for stopping by Deborah. I’m so glad that my Tweets are reaching people. I usually feel I’m just tweeting out into space hoping they will find and alien world and bounce back to me.

  11. I used to be a pantser. My first book took a decade to write. I plotted the second one, wrote a full outline and finished the first draft in 5 months. The editing is taking about the same amount of time and frankly involves some pantsing as ideas come to me that weren’t in the first draft, but that’s okay. It’s getting done much faster than book 1. I guess that makes me a hybrid, too.

  12. I used to say I was a pantser with a touch of a plotter. Now I can say I’m a plantser — I love the term. I never knew how to describe my writing style. I write my outline exactly like the example of short sentences for each chapter you gave.
    Great blog.

  13. It’s not procrastination, it’s deep, serious subconscious thought. My downfall is spider solitaire and bejeweled. I am a pantser at heart, but to keep my focus I decided what things to write in a scene before I sit down. Lessons those squirell moments. Nothing deafens me to the sound of chocolate calling me though.

  14. I am a pantser for exactly the reason you gave — if I outline the whole thing (or even any significant part of it in detail) as far as I’m concerned the story is told and I have no interest in re-telling it.

    I have always managed this — sometimes like Mae Clair above, having to pull all the threads together 3/4 of the way through — and it’s worked until the current book. I am now reworking the penultimate 4 (FOUR!) chapters and putting sections of them in different sequence. Why do I do these things to myself?

  15. In the early days I was a confirmed plotter – had to be. As a former English teacher I spent years insisting on the importance of careful planning to all my students, so it would have been hypocritical to be otherwise.

    However earlier this year I tried an experiment. Without a single idea in my mind apart from an incident from real life to start with, I sat at my computer and began to write a story. Initially it was just going to be a short story but over the following weeks it grew to full length. I had no idea from one scene or one day to the next where the story would take me – and what’s more, it was completed in under a month.

    That novel turned out to be my best seller so far and I was so euphoric, I repeated the exercise a couple of months later.

    Since then, I’ve decided that for me, being a plotter means being a plodder and it’s much more exciting to be a pantser. True, it’s costly in fingernails but I wouldn’t have it any other way now.

  16. I’m a pantser, but I’ve learned to think about my book whenever I’m not writing. That way I usually know what I’m going to write when I sit down. In theory anyway. It usually works.

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