Pantsing My Way to Plotting

I’m a pantser. Always have been and assumed I always would be. I’m pantsing this blog post right now. I was the kid who wrote the mandatory outline after the essay.  I am the adult who plans vacations mere days in advance . I have always thrived without all that fussy planning stuff.  I got As on those essays and those hastily planned vacations wound up being incredible, free-form adventures.

I’ve always known there was another way, but up until recently I’ve had very little motivation or need to alter my pantsy ways. So what changed?

What changed is that I am now in the editing phase of my first novel while simultaneously writing my second.

For months I longed to be at this exact stage. I imagined the glorious creativity this would spark in my writing life. Oh, the joy I would find whilst balancing writing and editing! To be able to give the uncooperative hero of my first story time alone to brood while I attended to the newly ignited flames of my second. To give the story of my new lovers time to develop in my subconscious while I checked back in with my original heroine to give her a little pep talk. It would be productivity squared! 

The problem? I’m rewriting. A lot! While I was pantsing away at my first novel, the story brought me miles from where I originally thought it was going. The result being that the beginning of my story doesn’t set up the end as strongly as it would have had I actually known the end when I started writing it.

While I’m overeager to jump face-first into my new WIP—of which I have written two chapters already—I have to force myself kicking and screaming to continue edits on my first. It’s not that I don’t like my first story, it’s that I am so excited about my new one that it’s difficult to focus on anything else. It’s as if a part of me feels I’ll lose the story if I slow down.

Would plotting have helped me, or would it have kept me too rigid? I have no doubt this is an entirely different story than it would have been had I plotted. But for better or worse? It is impossible to know. What I do know is that plotting would have saved me a whole lot of rewriting and in turn I’d have a more harmonious balance between writing an editing.

Being a pantser has left me with an unpolished book, not yet ready to submit for query, as well as an overwhelming sense of guilt whenever I work on my new WIP. I wake up each morning and have the same decision to make. Write or edit? Lose the momentum of my new story, or neglect the old? This is not ideal. My productivity has plummeted. I need to fix this.

I’ve been afraid of plotting because I thought it would slow me down, or even worse, cut off the oxygen supply to the creative part of my brain . But here I am, struggling to bring myself to either the editing or the writing table each day. This, the internal struggle and lack of structure, is what’s slowing me down.

I’m taking the plunge. I start my journey to plotterdom today. Have I planned my route to get there? Heck no! I’m headed to Twitter, Facebook, and my local RWA chapter to get some how-to book recommendations from people who might actually know what they are doing. If you have a resource that has helped you along the way, I’m all ears (err eyes).

And for final motivation, this guy’s here to keep me in check. Something about him just screams, “Plot, or else!”

Muscular firefighter with axe

(Related: Luring the Pantser Out, Beating it into Submission)

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