Luring the Pantser Out, Beating it into Submission

I have set sail on my journey to plotter-ville and, while my route has not been meticulously planned in advance (go figure), my ship is stocked so far with three books to help me get there. Out of the oodles of writing craft books graciously recommended to me by the members of Long Island Romance Writers , I have chosen to begin with three:


I won’t attempt to give these books a full review here as I am NOT in any way an adept when it comes to book reviews. I write stories. I can write how-tos. I can write heartfelt love letters and matter-of-fact analytical reports. Reviews? Writing those and résumés is a whole different kind of voodoo.

What I can say about these three books is that reading them has me feeling empowered. A few weeks ago, editing my previously pantsered novel felt akin to running through a dark tunnel with no sense of direction while repeatedly slamming nose-first into walls and skidding backwards onto my keister.

But James Scott Bell has given me a flashlight, illuminating the tunnel and making is less scary. Gwen Hayes has given me map-making skills so I can know where I’m going and where I’ve been. And Lisa Cron is standing behind me with a megaphone reminding me why pantsing lead me so deep into the dark tunnel to begin with.

I’ve read, earmarked, tagged-up, highlighted, and notated Write Your Novel From the Middle and Romancing the Beat to the point where it looks like I’ve owned my copies for years as opposed to mere weeks. I’ve just begun Story Genius, but already I can tell Lisa Cron is taking a different approach. Whereas James Scott Bell and Gwen Hayes are tolerant and understanding of the pantser approach, by the middle of the second chapter of Story Genius, it is clear Lisa Cron is having none of that.

James Scott Bell’s approach to novel writing leaves room for plotters, pantsers, and the plantsers in between by giving advice to each type of writer. Reading his book first of the three eased me into the plotting idea. His “mirror moment” and his “triangle” makes sense to me as a pantser. Because it makes sense—and damn good sense to boot— I can follow that sensical (yup, not a word) line of reason over to the plotting end of the spectrum.

Gwen Hayes’s pendulum swings a bit further into the plotter realm by giving her readers a “beat” to follow. I didn’t realize until halfway thorough her book that the “beats” she had me thinking about in my own book were actually coming together to form an outline. By breaking everything down into clear, logical steps, and making it seem so easy, it’s like she tricked me into plotting! I’m a big fan of tricks, so that worked out well actually.

Enter Lisa Cron. Her no-nonsense attitude when it comes to the question of plotting is what I need right now. While I may not completely agree that being a pantser can never work for anyone, I know full-heartedly that being a pantser no longer works for me.

My hope for the remainder of Story Genius is that Lisa Cron can squeeze any remaining idealistic notions of a pantser lifestyle out of me. If that doesn’t work, I might just have to place an ad on Craigslist for an angry nun to beat me with a ruler every time I attempt to work on novel # 2 without an outline in place.


(Related: Pantsing My Way to Plotting)

2 thoughts on “Luring the Pantser Out, Beating it into Submission

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