Writing by the seat of your pants
…in the beginning, there was a thought.
And the thought would not go away.
And the thought took root and multiplied.
And people in meetings spake, and asked: what were you drawing in your notes?
And lo, you woke up in the night, and the thoughts bore fruit.
And the next day, you started writing and didn’t stop for air.
Writing as a pantser is actually pretty much exactly like that. Especially when your characters happen to be elite mercenaries, with years of training in breaking down defences. Mine progress remarkably quickly from polite reminders that it’s been a while since I wrote to sleep deprivation techniques.
But 75,000 words’ worth?
Actually, yes, surprisingly easily. Most of my manuscripts, after all the various levels of edit have been applied, work out to 85 – 100K words. I have no idea how someone can sit down, figure out exactly what is going to happen in a book…and then write a full manuscript despite that. I write books because I want to find out what happens, and the only way I can do that is to start writing. Well, that, and it’s the only reliable way to make the voices in my head shut up.
A lot of people figure that pantsers don’t plan and outline because they’re either lazy, and will never finish a book, or because they’re inherently disorganised and their books will be chaotic.
Would it perhaps surprise you to know that J. R. R. Tolkien was a pantser?
I think it’s highly appropriate, therefore, that a quote from J. R. R. Tolkien pretty much describes how I feel about writing: Bilbo’s walking song.
“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”
But, as a pantser, how do you keep track?
Oh, I have some notes. But when I say ‘some notes’ I mean about a page and half of Times New 12pt, for things that keep showing up but I can’t be bothered to devote brain-space to – Khyria’s ID code is one of those things. Much easier to pull up a notes file, and copy and paste the darn thing. Then I don’t drop consistency errors all over my readers, and I don’t have to re-read my entire series again to track down one elusive reference.
Fine. I don’t have to re-read my entire series often to track down one elusive reference. Happy?
Being a pantser does have one massive drawback. I hate SEO. I loathe it. If you want to write truly effective posts for SEO, or even something like a bio, you have to plan it. you have to have a list of keywords, and you have to have a system for getting them all in there without keyword stuffing.
I’ve compromised. That compromise is that I will never be great at SEO, but I will continue to enjoy writing.