A couple weeks ago, Christopher posted about how he’s incorporated plotting into his writing process. The post got me thinking about my own writing process. I’m a pretty die hard pantser, but I haven’t always been good at pantsing. Like Christopher, I often pantsed myself into tricky situations that I then spent months trying to get my way out of. Today I’d like to talk about pantsing strategies to help you get through those times when you really don’t know what’s going next.
I’ve tried to be a plotter. I really have. Below is a picture of my last attempt to plot a book.
As you can see, it did not go well. (In case it’s unclear, I gave up plotting beyond the underworld scenes)
This is a project I did for Camp NaNoWriMo, and while the outlining did not go well, the writing did. I think it was my most successful NaNo experience yet.
For whatever reason, my brain just won’t outline. I need to write things out to get a sense of where the characters are going. What this means is that I need a lot of Butt In Chair time to just write out my plot. I’ve found that because of this contests like NaNoWriMo really work for me because they give me a goal and force me to sit down and write, like it or not.
One tool that I’ve found EXTREMELY helpful is Write or Die. The Write or Die software has a number of different settings that you can tailor to your needs. But the gist of it is that you sit down and you write and if you stop writing, there are consequences (unpleasant noises, pictures of spiders).
I love this tool, and I’ve grown so used to it that I no longer even need the consequences. Just seeing the browser puts my brain into writing mode. This tool has pushed me through a number of sticky plot points. Occasionally I really am so stuck that all I do is ramble about the character’s shoes, but more often than not I’m surprised by the actual plot problem solutions that I’ve gotten just by forcing myself to write.
I suggest everyone try it. I mean really try it (probably several times) because it takes some getting used to. I hated it when I first tried it. Now I love it. The software is available at writeordie.com. You can also find a free trial version on the website.
Sometimes if I’m feeling really stuck, I’ll take a day off. But only one. During Camp NaNoWriMo this year, I accidentally got my characters stuck on a deserted island. I let myself sleep on it, and the next day I forced myself to think of a way to get them out.
The point of this post is to say that being a pantser doesn’t mean you can just sit around and wait for inspiration to take you somewhere. (Well, you can. It’ll take you a very long time to get a novel completed, though.) Sometimes being a pantser means pushing forward even when you have no clue where you are going.
Just. Keep. Going.
Which is probably good advice whether you’re pantser or a plotter.