Found Them! Found My Pants!

Or would pantsing be more a loss of pants?

At any rate, I’m trying something new with the latest draft of SPARKS: Semi-Pantsing!

In the past, I’ve described myself as a “Loose Outliner.” For the first version of SPARKS and its trilogy, I outlined the all of the subplots of the first book, then did more general outlines for the second and third books. Then, as I wrote the first book, I used the outline as a guide, but veered from it whenever I felt it necessary to do so. This worked out pretty well. I didn’t have a hard time figuring out what to write next. What I did have, though, was a more plot-driven book.

So, in the blogging world it’s called Pantsing. In the academic world it’s called a Character Driven Book. Now, I don’t think a carefully plotted out book is inherently plot driven. But for me, that was the result! Boo on that. I truly do want a more character driven book. I want to write a book that is fun, yet still deep. (Whoa. That’s deep.)

With RED SKY, the journey has been complete Pantsing. Non-stop pantsing action! I would say it’s been intense, but when the 130 pages have been stretched out over 1.5 years … not so much. Even still, I wrote and submitted two whole chapters that got the axe in the final draft. The story wandered and changed, and that was okay! But it was a long time to write.

I can’t be a true Pantser. I’m just a phony. My mind is a mystery to me. I hold on to some thoughts and ideas for years! Others get lost in minutes. It kinda depends on my frame of mind. I HAVE TO WRITE STUFF DOWN! Or else, things just get messy. And you don’t wanna see me get messy! (Kinda like this post. And I haven’t even had my Diet Dr. P yet today…) But I still want that spontaneity that pantsing gives me. So here’s what I’ve done:

First off, I have Scrivener! The Mr. gave it to me for my birthday. And I’m loving it so far. (Though I’m still not sure how to use the Inspector.) In my Notes section of the SPARKS document, I’ve got a text doc for each book. These are very loose outlines, but I’d still say they qualify as outlines.  Each has the same info:



General plot line (VERY general, like “Lia does this, meets these people, figures out that this is what the bad dude is up to.”)

What to reveal

Possible titles

And that’s it! I have a Chars Doc, in which I have more detailed notes on the major chars. And other than that, nada pinata. And you know what? It’s working! And I’m loving the result. I’m about 9k in so far. The prologue and first chapters were easy. The second chapter … not so much. But the ensuing chapters have come easier and easier still. And my writing speed has increased to the tune of an increase of over 1k per day. (Not anticipating that today, because the day is somewhat full. Poop.) This is quite good for me. I’ve never been a fast writer.

Other techniques I’m employing/plan to employ: Veronica Roth’s “Don’t Look Back” and “Writing Out of Order.” The first has been very helpful. I have gone back to the first and second chapters for light editing, as I’ve gotten to know better both the voice and character, for continuity in both. But other than that, I haven’t thought much on it.

I’m in love with this story. Like, Mr. Atkins might should be worried. A trip to Vegas may be in order. I think this new Pseudo-Pantsing approach is a big part of that.

What about you? Pantser? Outliner? Candlestick maker? Do you have any tips for me?

(Click the image above for more pants-related cartoons from Toothpaste for Dinner.)

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I write speculative fiction inspired by mythos from around the world, complex family dynamics, and my own experiences living with mental illness. After earning my BA in Linguistics from Brigham Young University in 2008, I received my MFA in Creative Writing from Converse College in 2012. I live in Denver, where my husband and I spend countless hours chasing our three young sons (and sometimes catching them!). I collect tarot decks, dye my hair mermaid colors, and procrastinate by decorating my home. My debut novel, Feathers Sharp as Knives, releases on May 2, 2023.

13 thoughts on “Found Them! Found My Pants!

  1. I love to write out of order ^_^ It’s my favourite way to write, even if it does take a bit longer.

    There’s nothing wrong with being a semi-pantser. I become a semi-pantser in the second draft phase. And I too hold onto ideas for years. I’ve returned to an idea this week I first had about seven years ago. I’m quite excited to know I can finally develop it :D

    1. That’s such an exciting feeling. I have an idea that I’ve been holding onto for the last year (so, not that long, but still) and I’m excited to tackle it next year, after I finish SPARKS and RED SKY.

  2. I’ve been using Scrivener, too. I just got a message from them that my free trial is over in five days, so I guess I better buy it. I’m a combination planner/ panster. I generally know where I’m going, but I don’t like to over-plan. This way, I can surprise myself. Or that’s the hope, anyway.

  3. A little of both! I tend to outline a bunch and gather ideas, but I also try to allow the story to evolve on the fly.

    But that’s awesome that pseudo-pantsing has allowed you to write so much so fast! :) Yay!

  4. I’m not a pantser. I have to know where I’m going with the story. Though I do need to do more semi-pantsing for my first drafts. I spend way too much time thinking about the story and not enough time actually writing it.

  5. First, I laughed SO hard at the title and first graphic. And now I’m sad because I was going to put a GIF in my post today but forgot to. Ahh well.

    Second: I’m a total outliner, although I will on occasion write out of order if there’s a later scene I really want to get to. And I like to think I’m flexible enough that I’ll adjust my outline if I end up veering on some wonderful tangent, even if it’s a pain to make the changes. I just like having an outline and knowing where the story is going and having something to refer to so I don’t forget all the details. I’m a slow writer and a lot of those little details escape out of my head before I can write them down.

    I AM very interested in learning more about Scrivener, so I would love if you post more about your experiences with it! I think I sort of do my own ghetto-Scrivener with assorted Word docs, but it would be lovely to have everything in one place…

    1. I definitely will do a post on Scrivener. Sometime this month, after I’ve had more time to get used to it and play with it. Maybe I’ll make it a series! The first will be drafting with Scrivener. The second will be revising! Thanks for the idea!

  6. Scrivener! I downloaded the free trial issue, but haven’t had time to try it out–yet. Lucky for me, the trial is according to uses, not days; i.e. I have 30 uses to try it out even if those uses extend over months. Which is looking like that might happen. :(

    1. That’s a cool concept–the 30 uses, not 30 days. From the tutorial and how they gave the discount when they didn’t get it released before November started, I feel like the Scrivener folks really care about their product and their customers, more than sales. I really respect them for that.

  7. I’m definitely a panster. I have never been able to outline, although I have tried. I typically just sit down and start writing and the story develops itself magically before my eyes. ;) Okay, not quite that easily, but usually no planning at all other than a general plot idea.

    For NaNoWriMo this year, my story was loosely based on a true story, so I already knew what the story was and jotted down some stuff to remember to put it in it. I found that I skipped around like crazy and only wrote the exciting parts, then got bored with it. Not bored with the story, but bored with writing it because I already knew everything that was going to happen.

  8. When I first tiptoed into writing I was into ridiculously detailed outlines in high school, which is mainly why nothing ever really got written, because I never felt like I had enough created to actually start. Now I would say I’m more or less do a loose outline. I’m about to start my next story while i’m finishing up polishing my last, and I have the main arc and the first couple chapters more or less laid out. I found this approach worked pretty well for Chimera the last one. I don’t think I could truly pants it with writing, but I do embrace it in that eventually I have to kick my butt to start writing and stop planning.

    Scrivener is something I wanted to like, but never really warmed up to it when I got the free trial after NaNo last year. I don’t think I had the patience to figure it out when I find Word has always worked well enough for me. I might have a separate document for some notes, but I never had been much for lists when it comes to writing beyond writing the next couple plot points. I know others swear by it though.

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