Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pantster Pitfalls

I've already mentioned a few of the drawbacks for being a pantster. After yesterday's post, though, I thought it might be a good idea to collect them all in one place, so you have some reasons for not taking the easy road to your writing style.

  1. The Rewriting—I may well be an extraordinary case with my constant rewrites, but I don't think so. When I start a new draft, I don't know how the story will end. I don't know which characters will be the most important, which settings will require further description, or what I'll have to research as I go. That means that the first draft needs a lot of work after it's done. I can't deliberately foreshadow an ending I don't know (though often the ending will come from foreshadowing I've already slipped in). I can't write to a theme I don't yet recognize. My writing could very well be the best it's ever been, but the draft will be a useless mess before I've done some heavy rewriting.
  2. The Waste of Time—I have typed out huge swaths of dialogue that have gone nowhere. Entire scenes served no narrative purpose, and had to be scrapped. I imagine this happens to all writers, pantster or outliner, but I bet it happens with far more regularity if you don't know, as you're writing, whether something will be important or not. I can't consult my outline as I'm going along to make sure I'm on track. And, if I realize halfway through that the story isn't what I thought it was, all I can do is swear and write to what the story is really about, then fix the first half later.
  3. The Difficulty of Planning—I can't set aside a longer period of time to write a difficult scene, because they sneak up on me. One minute my characters are having a grand old time, then I realize this is the perfect moment for my baddie to catch my protagonist unawares. Next thing I know, it's 3 AM, and the cat's given up on miaowing at me and fallen asleep. (Yes, my cat nags me to go to bed. No, it's no more effective than you'd imagine.)
  4. The Forgetting—Just because I write by the seat of my pants doesn't mean there's no planning that goes into what I write. Often, I'll get a flash of inspiration for a scene I have to write, and then I write the characters toward that scene. But sometimes, I forget that awesome line I wanted to put into my character's mouth. Or, I forget the great scene I mentally plotted for a side character that makes it worth his inclusion in the story. I don't have this stuff written down, unless I've happened to jot it down in a note that I haven't subsequently lost. (Pantsters, disorganized? Gasp.) I have no idea how many good ideas I've lost to the black hole of my memory, or whether they were any good, but it's more than one or two. The good part about this is, it motivates me to keep writing, at least to "the good part," so I don't forget.
  5. The Finishing—As I mentioned yesterday, if you're a pantster, you're at your happiest when you're following your characters to find out what happens next. When you do figure out the ending, though, things can get dangerous. You're no longer wondering what happens next, because now you know, and the fun part is over. Now you have to knuckle down and write it. So there's all that work ahead of you, and none of the reward of getting to find something new. It can be difficult to feel like writing then, and the lure of new projects will be strong, because the fun part still remains in those stories. It can be overcome with some willpower and finding things to discover about the ending, and looking forward to tightening up the story, but it is a hurdle.
I'm sure I've forgotten something, and it is possible outliners share some of the same issues. Every person's method is going to have its drawbacks; there's no One True Way to Write. I just know pantsters, and how my chosen method has gotten in my way. Overall, though, it works for me, and I can usually find a way to work around things, or turn them to my advantage. The trick is to find the method you'll enjoy enough that it'll be worth the pitfalls.

Herc, the nagging cat.

No comments:

Post a Comment