Friday, August 6, 2010

The Pain of Being a Pantser

Writing to see what happens next can be very exciting. Some of my best work has come when I've really let go, not allowing myself to be tied down by outlines and other writerly restrictions. But there's a dark and painful side to that way of life. A tad melodramatic? Maybe. But it's still risky to write with no direction.

Nothing life threatening, mind you, but what if you run out of fuel before you reach your destination? Or maybe you didn't check road closures before you left and you ended up turning around and going back to the beginning more than once because the ways were blocked? It hurts when that happens.

Yesterday, I had to cut 3400 words from my ms because things were wandering off into boring territory. Not really my favorite scene, but it took time to write those words, and my time is very precious right now. And those were the words that pushed my word count over 60,000 and my page count over 200. I finally felt like I was in the home stretch. *sigh*

So far, I've cut over 11,000 words from this draft. And I'm sure I'll be cutting more before I'm done. These are the days I wish I was an outliner.

What about all of you? Pantser? Outliner? Do you find yourself cutting large chunks of text because things aren't headed in the right direction?

And since it's Friday, I leave you with this. Because it's awesome. :)


  1. Abby, you are a riot! And not because I'm laughing at you, but rather laughing right along with you. We're both on the same rollercoaster ride, that of the pantster. The vid at the end is perfect too. Thanks for the laugh.

  2. I totally feel your pain. The WIP I just recently finished had over 20k words in the cut file. Ugh. SO frustrating. But I've tried outlining and it kills my muse. I'm just not built to be that way. *sigh*

  3. I tend to edit as I go, with a vague outline, and I'll sometimes chuck several pages and start a scene over if necessary. Just part of the process. The story is usually better for it. My worst instance was writing 100 pages of a novella, nearly the whole thing, and deciding to start over from scratch. It was painful, but I ended up getting that novella published.

  4. Eric: Good to know I'm not alone. This is definitely a roller coaster, isn't it? And not always the fun one. Sometimes, it feels like I'm on a kiddie ride or the one that breaks in middle and then I'm stuck hanging upside down for three hours. :)

    Roni: I've tried outlining too, and I always end up with an outline I don't stick too. The story always has a mind of its own--even in a rewrite.

    Angie: 100 pages? That hurts. But when it's not working, what else can you do? I agree, the story is usually better for it, but it still doesn't eliminate that band-aid removal feeling.

    You know, now that I think about it, the first draft of my current WIP was 130,000 words and I ended up scrapping the whole thing and starting over. How did I forget that? I guess I blocked it out. Too traumatizing. ;)

  5. I'm cutting scenes quite a bit right now. Just some early stuff seems unnecessary now that I'm looking at in revision. I guess it's just part of what we have to do. But that doesn't make it easy.
    That video is hilarious.

  6. I'm a outliner and I think we tend to get a bad rap, coming off as less creative or unspontaneous. Nothing can be farther from the truth. I've dumped entire scenes before, but because I decided they were extraneous, not because I veering off course.

  7. Eek! Sorry about the cutting. That hurts.

    I'm more of an organizer and a list-er than an outliner. I write down which scenes I want and where they go, but I always seem to be moving things around.

    I've been doing a lot of talking about plot over my way this last week. Have you chimed in yet? Pantser opinions are always welcome!

    Dancing with Dragons is Hard on your Shoes

  8. With my current WiP I didn't even know what it was about for most of the writing process. It's only as I near the end of draft one that I'm starting to understanding it. It's going to need major chops but I don't care because writing it was such a blast. Plus, I don't think it would ever have worked out if I had outlined.

    All that said, your awesome and so is your story. It will all be worth it when you're done.

  9. I'm a outliner and see myself doing it any other way. :D

    I've recently made big cuts to my wip, but that's because someone made a tiny but brilliant suggestion to one of my paragraphs, which ended up with me writing new scenes and deleting others. But the story is better for it so I don't mind. Plus, I had edited the story enough times that I was ready for a change. ;)

    Yeah, I know, starting a new project might have been easier. But I do have two outlined and am waiting for the moment I've finished editing this book to start the wip for one of them. :D

  10. I’m definitely a pantster. It worked fine with my first two manuscripts, but I’m struggling with the third. I may have to try a simple outline approach. In the revision process, I cut text, but I also add more scenes and dialogue, so the word count stays about the same.

  11. Ha! Love the Twilight HISHE (my favorite one is the LOST one).

    I'm a hybrid. I write a loose outline, then veer off course. Right myself, then veer off again. Then it all ends up getting changed in revisions anyway. But I write a skeletal first draft and have to build out in revisions, so I haven't felt the pain of cutting thousands of words at a time. Usually just hundreds, and they get changed, not completely cut.

  12. I'm a bit of both, I think, but having written and published only short stories so far, I wouldn't know.

    To each writer his or her own, I guess, what works for one writer may not work for another, because we are all different, unique people!

    Daily (w)rite