Sunday, May 23, 2010


A moment ago I read one of the funniest updates on writing that was ever posted on twitter:
"Oh no! I've written myself astray! I'd better stop or the story will take me away!"
And this made me remember a chat with another writer a few days ago, who asked me if I was an "outliner" or a "pantster".

I'm a pantster, if you care to know.
When I started out writing this novel, I had no idea where it would take me.
There was just one scene firmly fixed in my mind that I wanted to write about (and I'm not telling you which one), and the rest, well it just had to fall into place somehow.
And it did.
For the longest time, I did not know which ending the story would take, if my heroes would be allowed a happy end or not, and now they are getting one, but blemished.
They walked through their fates at their own will, taking me along to record it, but I did not shape it for them.
Just now, for instance, editing, I came across a scene where my two main characters discuss how they felt about each other during their long parting, and it ends with the woman leaving the room wordlessly.
When I wrote that scene, I had no idea where she was going or what she would be doing, only that her lover is left behind in fear and bewilderment. He spends the next couple of hours talking to his friend and producer until she finally shows up again, and it was only in that very instant when Naomi opens the door and walks in that I knew what she had been up to.
It turns out she did not run away from him and their discussion at all but did something that would solidify their future relationship.
But the point is, I was just as much in suspense while she was away as Jon was.

Which is why I am a "pantster", someone who writes "by the seat of their pants".
This means I go with the flow, let my people develop their characters while the storyline evolves, and let the storyline evolve around the characters.
The downside of this is that the editing takes long, because, as with normal persons, my protagonists change over time.
It probably also makes the book thicker than a novel that has been rigorously outlines and plotted and then written down, because you tend to be side-tracked.
Not side-tracked in a meandering way, but maybe looking at the surroundings inside the scenes more closely. After all, there is time to explore if you have to wait for your characters to make up their minds.

I'm not going to change my writing method. In fact, I love to be inside my stories.
It makes my readers tell me, "it feels as if I'm really there!" and that is all I want to hear.

And now I'm going back to the real writing.


  1. for the "one of the funniest updates on writing that was ever posted on twitter." *violent blush*

    I guess I am a pantster, too then. ;)

  2. I'm glad you write that way - it does seem to make surprises more surprising, and the characters more authentic. Looking forward to seeing the results of your editing - the popcorn is ready.

  3. I love that style...I love to be "inside the action" with a novel. Keep on keeping on, sistah!

  4. That's a great term of phrase; I'm definitely a panster!!

    CJ xx

  5. It's not from me, mind you. KMWeiland asked that question. But you are right, it is a very good term!