Ever since I scribbled my first novel's pages (protag name: Raine) in the first (of many) green spiral-bound notebooks, I've been a pantser--you know, the kind of writer who plots as she goes, throwing caution to the wind and following the white rabbit through its warren and inevitably the warrens of all its millions of relatives.
Though I started this writing thing in 1995, when I was a tender age 9, it wasn't until 2010, at the slightly-tougher age of 24, that I wrote THE END, BITCHES on a novel. I have hundreds--very possibly even thousands--of discarded stories, from a paragraph on a napkin to a hundred hand-written pages, and from the mid-aughts on, dozens of echoey Word files.
Every time I started one of these ideas, I was filled with absolute certainty that this would finally be THE ONE THAT I WOULD FINISH. And then 5, 10, 30 pages later, I moved on to greener pages.
Not until I finished my second novel last year and started making noises about revisions did I come to realize something very important about myself. Despite all previous espousing and belief, I am not a pantser. And I have the dusty skeletons of a lifetime of discarded stories to prove it.
It took NaNoWriMo for me to realize that I needed at least a semblance of an outline in order to flourish. In 2008, I gave up on NaNo at 32k, which was the longest thing I'd written to date. In 2009, unemployed and determined to make it work, I spent the month of October world-building, drawing maps, and figuring out who exactly these people were whose story I wanted to tell. I knew their over-arching plot and a few points in-between. As I wrote, I got more ideas about how I wanted things to progress, and I made notes in my ever-growing sketchbook.
Three months after NaNo, I finished that book, my first. A few months later, after throwing out all but about 18k of the first NaNo idea, I wrote another rough synopsis and finished Saving Me.
This is what I've come to learn:
If I don't have even a basic skeleton idea of the plot (especially the ending), I will never finish.
As I've picked up a discarded draft from last year (Four) and read through the notes I made myself during the initial planning process, I've realized that not only have I saved myself a ton of stress and effort in trying to figure out what a-year-ago-me wanted this story to be about, but I could simply jump back into the writing without doing all the research and soul-searching that killed my spirit before.
So now, with a bullet-listed synopsis of the story, including the major climax and several important plot-points, as well as separate lists for desired character arcs, I'm flying through this novel (for me). Before I write each chapter, I open a new Word document and write a very rough synopsis of what will happen in that chapter. Then, during the chapter drafting, I refer to the synopsis when I need to, but ultimately speed through with no speed bumps AND continuity.
Continuity. Amazing, that.
I'm not stressing about writer's block, because my path has been paved. I'm not trying to think out the best possible twists and turns, because I've already done and recorded it. Even better, I'm writing a draft that will be infinitely easier to revise and edit than the hot messes that my pantsing ways left me with before.
All of these reasons are why I took off my pants.
Do you still write in pants, or have you joined the skivvy crew? Have you found that as your dedication and seriousness about writing grows, you've changed your perceptions of your writing habits?