I’m a “pantser” (as in fly-by-the-seat-of) when it comes to writing. And everything else in my life. Anybody who’s ever tried to set up a playdate with my kids knows I don’t plan ahead. The best way to make plans with me is text me at the last minute. If I’m not doing anything, I’ll probably join you. On the other hand, I hate birthday parties. Trying to figure out what me and my kids are going to be doing two weeks from next Saturday at three o’clock in the afternoon? Ha! As if.
When it comes to writing, “pantser” (and I really prefer the term “organic writer” and please don’t call me a “paNSter”) means one simple thing. I don’t outline. I plunge in with a vague idea of where I’m going and who I’m going with (my characters) and plow through until I reach the finish line. Which is usually not where I thought it was when I started out. Which usually means I have a total mess to go back through when I’m done.
So why do I think rewriting is easier for me than someone who has plotted and planned and checked out every intersection of the race? (Ahem, not that writing is a race. It’s totally not.) Because, to move from racing to gardening metaphors, I don’t mind throwing out and cutting and replanting. Just for instance, a first reader told me a few months ago that the story I was telling in my current work-in-progress wouldn’t work. She had some great points, including the fact that my heroine was totally unsympathetic. (I’d been going for tough.) She made some suggestions for a total rewrite and I set the work aside for a few weeks. Now, coming back to it, I’ve got fresh eyes and I’m pulling weeds like crazy, trying to get at the heart of the novel.
What I’m getting at is that it’s not that abnormal for me to throw out three thousand words at a chunk. I may have spent an entire working day composing those words, but if I find it’s a weed and not a flower (haha), I don’t mind tossing them at all. But what if I’d plotted and planned and written those words and gotten the same reaction from a first reader? I don’t think it would be as easy to pull and prune and toss.
But then, if I planned and plotted, maybe the finish line would stay where it was supposed to be, huh? Just like a well-planned garden. But then I might never get a chance to find something like this:
And that’s the true joy of being a pantser. Finding the heart in the middle of the massive mess of writing. A honeysuckle rose that nobody planned. Because there always is one. Even in a novel you have to completely rewrite.