I might be getting rid of my pants.
Maybe an explanation is in order.
“Pantsing” is what you call it when an author “flies by the seat of their pants.” Basically, the author sits down and starts writing, and they’re as surprised as anyone else by what happens. In general, I’ve been a pantser. Even if I have a general idea of where a story will go, I have no idea how we’re going to get there. I discover the characters as they reveal themselves.
It’s a very organic process. I’ve become very comfortable with it, to the point of bristling a bit when someone suggests I outline ahead of time. And trust me, there’s nothing quite so unpalatable as a bristling pantser!
But then… I finished this revision of the novel I’ve been tinkering with.
Now, the first draft – and the many other revisions – were all pants drafts. When I wrote the rough draft, I had no idea where anything was going. It took hours of hammering things out and talking with my wife to figure out how to wrap it all up at the climax of the book the first time around. It ended up being… decent in the first draft, but it clearly needed work. And work has been done. Lots of it.
Even after all that, there were holes in the novel. I needed to add some scenes here and there to add tension, help explain things better, and simply transition better. In other words, I had a good idea of what needed to happen. I already knew the characters at this point. I had a starting point and ending point for all those scenes.
And when I typed them… the words flew.
When I’m pantsing, 1000 words an hour is decent. Now, I started using writing sprints for raw creation, and my word count went way up– at least doubling what I had been doing before.
But with this?
I was getting 3000 words in an hour and a half. And unlike the “raw” material of a writing sprint that needs a fair amount of cleaning up, these words already fit in well because they were being woven into an already-existing whole.
In other words… it was almost like writing using an outline.
Now, I wrapped up that novel, and it’s off to an editor before I get it back, do one last tinker-through based on the editor’s notes, and then trying my hand at sending it in to a publisher. I’ve got another book back I’ll be publishing under another name from an editor.
And then after all that… my wife and I have mapped out a four-book series that is a bit more complex in structure than anything I’ve tackled before. I know I’m going to need to outline it. I was nervous about that; I thought that outlining would remove the spontaneity. But now? After this little exercise?
I’m throwing my pants away!
Wait. Maybe that’s not the correct way to phrase that. I am, even as I write this, wearing pants. You don’t have to worry about this deranged pantsless writer regaling you with how he’s typing out his novels.
But… I’m actually excited to attempt outlining and seeing what that does for my word count and quality control. I’ve been seduced to finally try this thing.
But I’ll probably still be a panster for my short stories. Because, well, at least sometimes it’s fun to do it that way!