I once heard a talk by a lovely Kansas SCBWI member—whose name I wish I could remember—about Walter Dean Myer’s process. It involved lengthy and detailed outlines.
At that moment, I wondered if I’d ever be a good writer.
Trouble is, I didn’t want to give up the freedom of pantsing. The interesting discoveries you make when you just let ‘er rip.
I’m starting a new story and this time, I’m making the effort to get the bones in place, first. With the caveat that I’m still free to run wild and crazy when belching out my first draft.
I hope the extra time spent pre-loading the manuscript makes me write faster. And still gives me room for those Aha! moments.
Because that’s what makes it fun.
I don’t want to waste time writing down the wrong path, but here’s what happened to me the other day…
I’m in the last quarter of my WIP, with lots and lots of subplots going. That’s fine, it’s a first draft when all possibilities must fly. But I hate the feeling you get when you have to carve out ten chapters and put them in the Dead File. I measure all those misbegotten words in terms of Time I Could Have Used Revising.
So I spent the day tippity-tapping up a storm, chasing a monster of my own making. Unfortunately, at the end of the day I decided the monster did not belong in this story.
After a few minutes of lamentation,
I picked myself back up and turned to another plot thread I’d been working on for weeks. And then a curious thing happened.
My WIP careened somewhere that SHOCKED ME.
I literally had to stop and recover.
How did this happen?
OH, I’VE GOT A THEORY.
First, while I was chasing the monster with my characters, I got to know them much, much better. That never hurts.
Then, when I went back to the other thread, a sufficient amount of percolation space and time had passed to allow A Breakthrough.
That. Is why I love pantsing. *
Yeah, not like that.
* Writing, flying by the seat of your pants, rather than outlining beforehand.