Saturday, August 11, 2018

HOW I PANTSED MY NOVEL'S FIRST DRAFT // a collab about pantsers

Hey, friends! Today I bring to you a collaboration! And not just any collaboration - a collaboration with my friend Nicole from the epic blog Wild Pennings. In this collab, we are going to talk to you about PANTSING. For part 1 this morning, I’m going to let you inside the head of a pantser - in other words, I’m going to share my pantsing process with you! Then later today, Nicole will be sharing a different post in regards to pantsing. Rather than about pantsing, she is going to be writing something for pantsers. So definitely be on the look-out for that this afternoon!

What's fascinating about pantsing is that there's no pattern to follow, no set of patterns to choose from. When you're writing by the seat of your pants, you don't fully know what you're doing or what’s happening. Some scenes and plot points and what-not come to mind as you get to them in the drafting process, and some come to mind as you’re brainstorming outside of writing. Either way, it’s a journey of discovery. Where will the journey take you? You don’t really know until you're on the road; you don't really know until you get there.

Let’s make one thing clear: When I pantsed the very first draft of my current novel-in-progress, I didn’t know much of anything about story structure. These days, a lots of writers will have studied different story-structuring methods and so will naturally keep that in mind as they write. As for me, when I considered myself a full-on pantser, I was undereducated on that sort of thing. I didn’t keep story structure in mind (except for beginning, middle, climax, and end) as I wrote that first draft.

Did I survive said draft? Barely...

But discovery writing (as some call pantsing) is a cool experience nonetheless. Lately I've been dipping my toes in outlining, which has been fun, but when I was a pantser through and through my story surprised me many times. Sometimes when I didn't even know how a scene was going to end, I just kept typing and the end just… HAPPENED. Which then opened up several opportunities for how the next scene would go.

Overhead shot of a turquoise typewriter next to a beige notebook and a plant

I blindly poured out scene after scene. And I didn't know what the climax and ending would be either, until I got to them.

When you’re a hardcore pantser, sometimes it seems like you're not even the one writing.

Another funny aspect of pantsing - that I've experienced - is how not much is set in stone, and that can result in some serious nonsensical messes. XD Something I may have incorporated early on in the story could disappear all of a sudden, without my realizing it. Without an outline, without knowing the ins and outs of my story beforehand, it's way too easy to introduce a character or object or some other piece of foreshadowing out of the blue and then forget about it.

And what is the result of that? Plot holes galore.

OH. MY. GOODNESS. You have nooooo idea how many ginormous plot holes riddled my novel's horribly messy first draft. For example, towards the beginning of the story I mentioned something about the Book of White Magic. Whatever that was. :P One little mention of an ancient book that was probably supposed to turn into something significant over the course of the story. I think I planned to find out later on how exactly it would be significant. (Aaaaah, the beauty of pantsing. XD)

But did I ever mention the Book of White Magic again? Haha, NOPE.

By the time I finally got to “The End” of my fairy tale retelling, I knew full well I had a problematic draft on my hands. In fact, I felt it necessary to completely rewrite it. (Now I’m on the fourth draft and it’s looking much better, but that’s beside the point…) The point is, I had SO MUCH FUN discovery-writing that story. Yes, it had a lot of problems. Yes, I barely survived it. Yes, I got stuck sometimes and had to brainstorm my way forward. But not knowing what happened next made the drafting process all the more exciting and enjoyable. Of course, that’s not to say plotting is not exciting or enjoyable - like I mentioned previously, I’m currently trying my hand at it and it’s been fun!

But, there’s a certain thrill to not knowing what’ll happen next…


Before I wrap this post up, I have one piece of advice for you, whether you're a plotter or a pantser. To my fellow pantsers: If you've never tried plotting, give it a shot! And to my fellow plotters: If you've never tried pantsing, give that a shot! For the longest time, plotting did NOT appeal to me. I could hardly stand the thought of planning out my story beforehand.

Then, after learning more about the beauty of story structure, I finally told myself, "You're going to do it. You're going to try plotting your next book." And now I'm in the thick of sequel-planning and having SO much fun with it!

All I had to do was try it out, and suddenly I realized that maybe the idea of being a plotter wasn't so far-fetched after all... XD

So let me advise you: Try plotting. Try pantsing. Expand your horizons. You never know if something will work for you or not! :))

All right, friends, I hope you enjoyed learning about my pantsing process and how I pantsed the first draft of my novel! Writing by the seat of your pants is hectic all around, but it's nonetheless an exciting experience.

Now talk to me! Are you a pantser or a plotter? Let’s chat about discovery-writing. And be sure not to miss Nicole’s post (<< link) this afternoon! A big thank you to her for reaching out to me about this collaboration! <3

The Lord's Truly,


  1. My writing there truly any way to describe it? I think not XD

    Like, the general story comes to me in my mind, and I pants it there and work on getting it onto paper from my MENTAL outline. But then there’s a ton that changes as I begin to write it, too. The whole subplot with Kariana’s changing looks that you keep screaming at me about? Totally sprang up out of nowhere. My villain’s true identity? Genuinely came to me in a dream (and I’m totally cool with that). It’s a messy process, but it HAS gotten better with time (my earlier drafts are such messes, ugghhhh.)

    But this insight into your writing process is so cool! Hardcore pantsing seems like it might be fun (and then of course I try it and FAIL SO BADLY...) but I greatly admire those who can ACTUALLY do it, and I can’t wait to read your book someday ^_^

    1. I see! That's a fascinating process! So you're like... a type of plantser? XD

      Earlier drafts do tend to be messy, hehe. ;)

      Thank you!!! I don't know how well I would fare now, but somehow I managed for that first draft of DR... SOMEHOW, YEESH. But it was such a messy draft. Meep. XD

      Aw, thanks!! That means SO much to me!

  2. LOL The good ol' days when I was a panster. XD those were the Heroes of Euhil days and Fernix was the most unpredictable thing ever. But then that book failed and I reverted entirely to plotting. Seriously tho, I need to panst again. I miss that kind of adventure so much. <3

    Lovely post, fren!! (And book. It was really good, even that first draft. XD)

    Danielle |

    1. Ikr, THE GOOD OL' DAYS. :D

      Aahhhh, Fernix... ;)

      I think I'm going the same route as you - plotting appeals to me way more than pantsing does now, though writing this post has made me miss the thrill of blissful ignorance. Sometimes blissful... :D

      Thanks!! (Well... maybe it wasn't totally terrible??)

  3. Haha, yes, pantsing! I don’t know if I’m a *true* pantser. Usually I don’t really outline, but I plan out a couple scenes in my head, and I know where the story has to go. But everything in between is an absolute mystery. I figure that out as I go along.

    I’ve tried hardcore pantsing before (not knowing ANYTHING) and it. Doesn’t. Work. My mind just gets too eager to explore the story, so before I can even START writing, I know at least two scenes from the book.

    If that made any sense at all XD great post, Lila! Can’t wait to see Nicole’s post for pantsers!

    1. PANTSING. Honestly that's what I've done lately too. Planning a little in my head and vaguely mapping out what'll happen later. :)))

      I'm not sure how well it work for me nowadays either!! I TOTALLY get that! XD

      Yep, that makes sense! Thank you so much, Nicole! And yesssss, her post is EPIC. :D

  4. I love being a pantster! Discovering the writing world is lots of fun, but again....the drafts are always sooooo messy!!! And often I end up writing myself to a dead end and never finish the book. So I tried plotting and hated it.

    Now I do a little bit of plotting before hand - I write a page or two from the POV of the main characters, write out a synopsis of everything I know about the plot...and then I jump in to explore! It’s gone very well, and I’ve written a number of books this way.

    1. It's a lot of fun! And yessss, that's the thing - MESSINESS TO THE EXTREME. Lol. XD

      Ah, so you're a plantser! :D Cool beans! I can't wait to read your books someday - they sound so epic. <3

  5. I am most definitely a pantser. I love it while I'm writing the first draft, but not so much when I'm writing the bajillion other drafts needed to polish up the story. XD

    Although, with my newest novel, I am going for more of a plotter approach. There's this very complicated backstory that I need to work out before I can start writing it, or else the book will become a jumbled mess of word vomit. XD

    1. First-drafting is an AMAZING process and I love it too. <3 However, I do really enjoy editing/revisions too. XD

      Haha, I get that. Backstory can be soooo complicated sometimes, and it adds so many beautiful layers to the story! :D

  6. I was a panster before, but I would find myself super bored and have no inspiration whatsoever. Now I'm a very detailed plotter. I make a huge outline and then as I get to each chapter, I plot each scene. That has helped me SOOOO much! My inspiration flows like a *insert parallel here* and I find myself flying through chapters. But when I have a small outline I sit there looking at my screen/page with nothing to write. But, to each his own!


    1. It's so cool that you write up such detailed outlines!! I can't get too detailed with my plotting or I'll get impatient to start first-drafting, hehe. XD

      THAT. IS. SO. COOL. It amazes me how different processes work for different writers. <3

  7. This post was wonderful!! I loved how you talked about trying both plotting and pantsing (leads to my favorite point in my post, hehe...) which was something I'd never really been taught. It was all "outlining is the only way to write a good story" but it sucked the fun out of writing for me. Your experience was really interesting to read about, and it sounds like you had a lot of fun! I'm glad you shared. :D Thank you SO much for collaborating with me!! I've enjoyed working with you on this project a lot!

    1. Thank you, Nicole!! I see that advice SO MUCH too, and it used to worry me quite a bit too. Then I learned about keeping story structure in mind AS you pants and it was like a lightbulb went on. XD

      You're welcome! And thank YOU for reaching out to about collabing! I've really enjoyed working with you too!! <3

  8. I'm a panster, but I'm a perfectionist so my first drafts have to make sense and I have to kinda know all the ins and outs. So even though I'm making it up as I go, I over analyze everything I write to death and edit and rewrite as I go. I've been trying to do outlines more often though.

    1. *nods* I totally get that! As times goes on, I have learned to try to just LET IT ALL OUT and worry about how it sounds later, but maaaan, it's so hard, isn't it???

  9. I'm totally a pantser! This post is so helpful. <3

    1. *high-five* That's so cool!!

      Thank you for reading, Gray! I'm glad you find it helpful. <3

  10. Great thoughts on pansting! Hhhmmmm, what would you call a punster/plotter hybrid? Because that is totally me. xD I create characters best while discovery writing, but my plots are even better through plotting and outlining. So I really am a mix of both, I suppose. =)

    Micaiah @ Notebooks and Novels

    1. Thanks, Micaiah! A pantser/plotter hybrid actually has a name - plantser! :D I think a lot of writers are mixes too!

      That's so cool! Discovering the characters as you go is such an awesome experience. :D


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