I Cheated on My Pants, and I Liked It

I have a confession. I am a pantser. No, no, not THAT kind of pantser. For non-writing folks, a pantser is someone who never outlines, but jumps into a novel or story with a general idea and holds on for the ride. They write what they see happen as they see it happening, and sooner or later you have a novel. Stephen King is a pantser. Tolkien was, too. I am, as well.

But today I was having a rare case of “Writer’s Block”. Which, let’s be honest, doesn’t really exist as such, it’s just a name we throw at the general problem of having no idea what the heck comes next.

I knew most of the ending of my novel, I’m about halfway, but there was a giant chasm between the two in which I had zero idea what happened.

I posed this issue to my absolutely amazingly talented friend Shanan Winters (check out her blog…no really go do it now…) and she said “Outline.”

To which I replied, literally, “NEVER! ‘Tis the battle cry of the pantser.”

But after some gentle prodding, I thought that maybe, just maybe, it would be okay to cheat on my pants. I consider myself a loyal person. Morally ambiguous though some of my characters may be, I cannot be blamed. I’m merely channeling their stories. Cheat on my pants? Let it never be.

But…I did it.

And…I liked it.

Before I knew it I had a door full of post-it notes outlining not only the bit I couldn’t figure out, but the entire rest of the book. I left enough wiggle room that if something really crazy happens as I’m writing that I didn’t expect, I’m not married to the outline. But at least I know what I need to do.

And then I started thinking.

Flying by the seat of my pants (which is where the term originates, if you didn’t put that together) might be great for a single-volume novel. But The Rogue Portal series has many books. (Fourteen to be exact. You heard it here first.) And I have the sneaking suspicion that, given enough pantsing, I’m going to find myself somewhere in the midst of book seven going “Ah *($)#*)(*!” Because there’s a gaping plot hole. Or I’ve backed myself into a corner. Or I accidentally killed off a character that I really need. Or there are contradictions. Or someone divides by zero and it all blows up. Something like that.

I want to be surprised, and I never want to know the ending. But I’m starting to realize that I don’t necessarily need to know nothing in order to do the story justice and follow my muse. Maybe I can know the cities I’m passing through on the journey without ruining the side trips and excitement.

Yes, I stress over these things. Not only because I want the readers to have an enjoyable experience and not have to continually go, “Wait I don’t understand…”. But because I want to do the story justice. And sometimes…just sometimes…it might be okay to cheat on your pants to accomplish it.

So there you go. Today I was a literary adulteress. And I’d do it again. 😉

And if you didn’t take me seriously before, you really need to go read Shanan Winters’ blog. Now you have no excuse. I’m done. You have nothing important to do but read it. Go forth! 😀

Until next time…happy writing! (And reading!)


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Work that maze in reverse!! LOL Glad you made it over the half-way hump!

  2. sheldonk2014 says:

    Most of my poems are from the sit of my a..I just have a bite of an idea and from out of nowhere something comes, my art is the same way. I can’t over think my work, I get in the weeds that way. I just started to write a short story last nite, from a photo I saw. I know from experience what I block can do, all I can say is to keep at it, it works for me it will pass

    1. courtneyherz says:

      I agree! I am by no means planning my work from now on haha. But I think for a series of books a few loose landmarks wouldn’t hurt. But I’m with you my writing process is much more fluid when I just go with it. 🙂

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