The romance of being a pantser is alluring. The lustful sense in the writer’s mind to pantser is one that draws us to sit down and start writing. Go where the imagination goes. Throw caution to the wind! As adventurous and sexy as this sounds I’m here to tell you something Dr. Ruth once told my generation: have protection! That protection doesn’t come in the form of a pill or latex sleeve, but in the form of an outline.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an advocate of one over the other. We all have our own method, and choose what works best; it’s a personal choice. I’m sure all of us, outliner or not, have at one point or another found ourselves with a story-spark that requires some panster power to get it down. We sit. We write. We find ourselves 500 words along and the story keeps coming, and it feels like a release of imaginative tension. When you’re done, you might light a smoke, have a glass of wine or just catch your breath from the best write ever. But depending on the depth of your piece, the size of it (does size matter?) you may find yourself with a story that’s thundering with loose ends. That’s when wearing an outliner’s rain coat will protect you, but if you feel comfortable in the storm then pantser away.
You’re probably wondering what method I use when I write. I have to admit, I love to be a pantser but I’ve found a good outline helps to keep my wild-side in check, so I enlist both methods. Here’s how I do it: Pantser that story-spark. Sweat and moan that idea into the best story synopsis you ever wrote – best write ever! Then take that synopsis and whip it with an outline. Now you’re ready to spend some quality time romancing your words. Love your story, and you’ll see the prose mature with depth and meaningful arc. Now for the fun. Between the points of your outline get naked and pantser between the sheets, of paper. That’s right, connect the dots of your outline points by drafting your story in panster mode. I get the best of both worlds as an outlining panster.
I find outlining helps nurture a good working relationship with my pantser self. Ultimately each of us chooses our own path, we learn by doing, and through this we discover our own rhythmic method to writing.
What method do you prefer? How do you do it? Do you stick with one method over the other or blend?