What Is Pantsing And Why You Might Consider It

Marie Elrich

Marie Elrich

Copywriter

Freelance Copywriter

8

Mar, 2018

Stephen King, author of bestselling suspense novels such as Carrie and Bag of Bones, is definitely a “pantser,” or someone who writes by the seat of their pants.

“In my view, stories and novels consist of three parts: narration, which moves the story from point A to point B and finally point Z; description, which creates a sensory reality for the reader; and dialogue, which brings characters to life through their speech.

You may wonder where plot is in all this. The answer—my answer anyway—is nowhere…I want you to understand that my basic belief about the making of stories is that they pretty much make themselves. The job of the writer is to give them a place to grow (and to transcribe them, of course).” —Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Later in On Writing, King describes many of the benefits of pantsing and why he can never see himself as an outliner.

Are these benefits enough to make you decide to write by the seat of your pants? In the end, you will have to decide.

Pantsing Finishes Novels Quickly

Have you heard of National Novel Writing Month, happening every November? This month-long event focuses on finishing a novel in one month. To accomplish this task, King would suggest pantsing by sitting down and taking time to write every day in order to finish. You wouldn’t need an outline, just a consistent writing habit. This removes the stress of following an outline and helps you crank out the first draft with ease.

“In my view, stories and novels consist of three parts: narration, which moves the story from point A to point B and finally point Z; description, which creates a sensory reality for the reader; and dialogue, which brings characters to life through their speech.”

Pantsing is Open-Ended and Creative

When a writer simply writes from their heart and imagination, they can create and build worlds never expected. They will be able to create original and surprising characters that seemingly grow along with the writing. With pantsing, authors are daydreaming through their words, just putting thoughts on paper and letting the characters come to life naturally.

Of course, this doesn’t always mean the character comes out perfectly. You’ll still have to refine and round out many of the characters rough edges during the editing process.

Pantsing is Engaging, Keeping You on the Seat of your Pants (literally!)

King believes that if he doesn’t know what is coming next in the story as the writer, the readers won’t know either, and they will be on the edge of their seats with anticipation as they read. Authors can let the world take them through twists and turns they didn’t expect if they are pantsing, helping them to have fun writing, too. Then, when they have finished, they can review their manuscript and see how their art came to life while they simply enjoyed the creative process.

Mistakes in Pantsing can be Corrected by a Good Editor

An argument against pantsing could be that pantsing creates too many errors. Yet, all these errors can be fixed by an editor who can tie together the ideas the author was establishing from the beginning. Also, regardless of an author’s writing style, his or her first draft is usually terrible. This means that writers shouldn’t care about what they’re writing or how they are trying to get their ideas on paper, and then they can be picky about the details during the revision process.

It’s Not All Bright

Of course, pantsing isn’t perfect. Without an outline, you’re more likely to find your characters in situations they can’t get out of, develop too many, or too few characters and/or plot points, and even ramble on far longer than you should, making the editing process more difficult.

Are you a pantser? Consider these pros and this description in order to answer that question. Pantsers are engulfed artists, who prefer long hours of typing away at the keyboard, deeply lost in the world they are creating. A pantser is comfortable in the chaos of story creation, often relishing it. They finish one book only to move on to the next, writing out their ideas with splendid rapidity. They don’t mind what errors arise out of writing their first draft but instead find the surprising story to be its own reward.


This post is part of the First Draft series on writing and more.

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