For 2018, all the monthly topics have been
submitted to me
by writers and readers of this blog.
The question asked this month is "I've been told that being a Pantser is the way to write a story. Is that good advice?"
New writers and aspiring novelists for ages have been fed the rhetoric of BICKHOC (Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard). This results in a writer being known as a Pantser (one who writes by the seat of their pants).
Pantsers are told to let the words out, come what may—free the Muse to play on the page—and great things will come.
First of all, let me debunk the Muse rhetoric. You don't have a Muse. You have an imagination, and it resides in your subconscious mind. That imagination is part and parcel of who you are and how you tell a story. The imagination is the inventive, think-outside-the-box creative self.
Pantsers shun rules and restrictions on creativity. They disapprove of outlines. After all, an outline reminds them of the formal outlines they had to learn in school. In actuality, a writer's "story outline" or "plot line" is as individual as the writer themselves and is not restrictive but liberating.
Pantsers will say that using forms is a waste of time, particularly character questionnaires, because the Pantser wants to discover who their characters are while writing and writing and writing, and writing—often to a dead-end story or going off on a tangent or having another character take over the story.
Pantsers will say that any outlining or use of forms or formats takes the joy out of the writing process and keeps them from discovering the wonders that can go in their stories. Hogwash. These are the same writers who admit they have a lot of started but unfinished stories. If they do complete a story, they complain and are frustrated because it is "such a mess" to fix.
Well, stop falling for rhetoric. Stop listening to it. The fact is that logic will always — ALWAYS — trump creativity. Why? Because people want to make sense of their world. And readers are very logical people. As a writer, you need to get readers to suspend their disbelief in order to believe in vampires, elves, or aliens. To do that takes logic and creativity working together.
And here's the best kept secret about producing writers—they use some type of "Structured Creativity." Not the detailed structure of a Plotter, who plots out all aspects of a story before they write—and who may never write the story because they plotted so heavily that they lost interest in the story itself.
Every producing writer has a system that works for them and which they use before writing and even during writing a manuscript. Their system ensures they have characters, plot, and a story to tell. The brunt of the work was done before they committed to the time to produce the manuscript. There was joy in creating the actual story because the writer knew there would be no dead-end, no character taking over. More joy came with putting words to the page because the writer knew the cast of characters as "people" not "puppets."
Another benefit of Structured Creativity is that nothing is written in stone. There's flexibility and freedom of creative expression.
As to revising the work? Structured Creativity means a first draft is not nearly the frustration it once was. It's more like polishing the work.
Okay, I will admit, when I first started writing, I was told to be the Pantser. I hated the failures of stories dead-ending. I hated rewrites after rewrites and still the story failed. When I took a professional fiction writing course, my eyes were opened to structured creativity and what story was all about. It took me three years to create my Master Project Bible. I use it for all my storytelling from short stories to novels.
So, how about not listening to rhetoric and start learning more about story and using structured creativity for your next fiction project?
Next month's topic— April 2018 — Break the perfection habit and stop editing as you write.
This is now available as a 1-On-1 Course for Fiction Writers