So I wrote Knot a Liar and Hitched for a While as a pantser. Now, I don’t know if it’s because I truly enjoyed writing those two (did each in about a month) but I felt as if they were easy stories to get down. Granted, neither dealt with heavy topics or soul-searching, heart rendering themes so that’s also something to contemplate.
Problem is, for Knotted book 2 (Knot thy Enemy) I tried planning the book by plotting an outline, as this story is wrapped in deceit, fraud and lies at the base of it all. However, it’s harder than it should be and taking waaaaay longer because of it.
And the main issue is I can’t even say where I’m getting stuck! I pantsed chapters 1 and 2, but because of the heavier themes, I decided that I’m actually going to outline what needs to happen in each chapter. I tried to follow every ‘simplified’ plotting advice I found in my writer’s groups. Then I bought and read books that specifically tells me what should be happening when, and I thought ‘Great! This is what I needed!’
It wasn’t. Because I keep ending up with an outline that isn’t outlining the story I want to tell but one that dictates what I should follow. And this just threw me off writing the story completely. It’s as if I can’t find it in me to write according to what I outlined because what I outlined isn’t what I or the story wants. But there’s no other way to outline these things according to every best-selling author’s advice!
Is my brain just not wired to plan my book out? Should I give up and just go back to pantsing the heck out of every story I attempt? (Even though I dread the revision and editing stages after pantsing.)
And the main question to tackle: Can a pantser transition to a plotter?
Answer? Ah… no.
Why? Because once the curse of the pants is upon you, you’re pretty well marred for life. Screwed, twisted and stamped sold! Brain chemistry (or something.) There were studies. (Don’t ask me where or when.) They were all postmortem, of course, so that’s kind of sad. So before you even attempt to write your first page of your first novel, choose wisely which aspects of that fence we want to embrace, because… you know… umm… science.
Then here’s where the metaphors get weird too.
Pantsing is like throwing 90k words at a dartboard and hoping 70 -80k stick (In reality I get 65k- 80k on an average from 100k. Another pantser might get better results). Of course, doing that three or four times can enhance literary skills as well as upper body strength. So, there’s that (I’m still waiting on those muscles, though). Also, typing. We can all benefit from that unless, of course, you write longhand and don’t know cursive.
Then there’re those weird bilateral shifts in body symmetry. One forearm and hand gets really strong while the other arm atrophies down to just enough muscle mass to lift a soda or a coffee mug- which gets messy since in most instances that would mean hoisting with your off-hand.
At that point you can get into the “I missed my whole mouth” and poured it right down on my brand new ‘I’m a pantser, dammit!’ t-shirt syndrome. And that’s where the cost dials in with the frequent (once you’re writing regularly) incidental emergency room visits which, all in all, makes a quite a strong case for iced tea.
Of course, there are those who say that tea is just another gateway beverage leading invariably to vodka martinis or Long Island Iced Teas. You just need four or five (or seven or eight) to convince you that you need to stick your tongue in an ant hill to taste whether the dirt there tastes different. Or to push R Kelly off Lady Liberty to really see if he can fly as he claimed. And while all this is nationality and venue restricted (or related), naturally, it seems to generally lead to the write-drunk-edit-sober approach. Which, as we all know, is the tertiary stage of Pantsing.
After that… you know… it just gets ugly. The progressive concussive syndrome, ie, beating your head against the wall and/or any other solid or semi-solid surfaces such as countertops and restroom floors when, after a few of the aforementioned ‘teas’, you crouch, half-composed, talking to god on the big white telephone.
It’s not a pretty picture. The full parameters of which can include paramedics, the police, a beheading or two and bail bondsmen. If anyone who knows you still cares.
It’s just… bad.
But still, I’m a pantser, dammit!