Angst in My Pants

Rumor has it there are two camps of authors: ones who neatly plot out their novels or stories before they fire up their computers and those who begin with only a premise and just start typing. Personally, I’m not sure either method is more valid than the other, it’s just a matter of personal style.

Or is it?

I’m in more of the “Let’s see what happens today” category, but I think I finally figured out why.  I’m impatient.  I can’t wait for the pot to boil, I’m not satisfied for the cookies to bake before I have a taste, I frequently go to the grocery store without a list and I’ve been known to cut my own bangs.  Furthermore, I never stop to ask for directions, although perhaps that’s just my homage to men.

Problematic?

For me, writing on a deadline becomes a challenge.  Furthermore, I frequently have moments where I think this time I’m not going to be able to come up with a solution to a plot problem. Yes, I have several unfinished manuscripts because I wrote myself into a ditch…but I intend to get back to them sometime in the future.  And each time I have that moment of self-doubt, the self-talk goes the same way:

“What if I can’t figure this out?” Bites lip.

“You always say that and then you always figure it out.”

“Not always.  Remember Going Green?”

Winces.  “Yeah, but this time is different.”

Fortunately, usually it works out and I turn into the stretchy guy from Fantastic Four as I pat myself on the back.  Nevertheless, today I’m collecting data on other personality traits that might be connected to writing styles.  

Plotters:  Is it true that, like Mary Poppins, you’re practically perfect in every way?  Never crammed for a test?  Plan out weeks’ worth of menus at a time?  Lay out your wardrobe the night before? Secretly identify with Hermione Granger?

Pantsers: Would it be accurate to say you’ve got a streak of independence wider than the Atlantic Ocean?  Been known to run out of the house with one black and one brown shoe?  Do you eat cookie dough raw or sample icing before it’s spread?  Always admired Mr. Toad from The Wind in the Willows?

I think I know the answer, but I’d love to hear your opinion.

~ S.G. Rogers

Clothes: © Andris Daugovich | Dreamstime.com

Scared kitten: © Tatiana Morozova | Dreamstime.com

Venetian masks: © Luciano Mortula | Dreamstime.com

24 thoughts on “Angst in My Pants”

  1. I’m totally in the middle. When I first started writing I was a panser. Then after about 7 years I started to plot. My writing has flipped-flopped since then. I’m impatient, so I’ve had to learn patience. But I also plan out my meals (don’t judge). In a way, I’ve become an alchemist, I suppose. Starting with an outline – yet messing it up enough to create something of worth. Great post, Suzzane, makes a writer think!

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  2. Love this! And laughing out loud… which I rarely do. 😉
    I teach English, so in theory I say plot. That’s what I make my students do. In practice, I’m a total “pantser”. Can’t help it. I make baby quilts bc I don’t have the patience for full-size ones. I get an idea (sometimes just a title) and sit down to start writing. I actually work better on a deadline bc then I have to finish in a certain amount of time, and apparently I don’t have the self-discipline to focus on just one story unless it’s imperative for it to be done.

    Thanks for the good laugh this morning — and p.s. Love your title! Totally caught my eye (but that might be the middle school teacher in me).

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  3. It may sound like a cop-out to your question, but I’m a bit of both: plotster & pantster.
    Part of it depends on how far along I am in the story.
    In my first drafts, I’m fairly immersed in the story and will average between 2k – 3k words per day for some 5-6 weeks. So immersed, in fact, that I wake up with scenes or dialog in my head and have to break-off my exercise session to scribble notes so I won’t forget. I love those periods, but they’re exhausting. Most of that is ‘panster’ stuff, I guess. But for the 2nd draft, I get down to some serious plotting. There are usually large holes and those can only be filled properly with strategy and planning. And/or … with input from a perceptive reader.

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  4. Fab post! 😀

    I love tasting raw cookie dough!
    I note down a rough outline of a story, then let the imagination flow. Often I end up somewhere completely different but if it works with the storyline then that’s fine. More in depth plot work follows in the 2nd draft.

    And don’t worry about those manuscripts hiding in that ditch. Dark Deceit was one of them, I was totally stuck. Then, a few years later, I fished it out again, changed the storyline and here I am, close to publication date. And it’s going to be the first in a trilogy!

    There’s hope yet. 😉

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    1. Well, sometimes I don’t even have an ending, really, except that the protagonist succeeds in his or her quest somehow. But then I’ve been caught with a can of frosting and a spoon. At least I know myself!

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  5. I guess I’m more of a plotter. I have trouble figuring out where to go without an outline with specific details worked out ahead of time. That said, once those benchmarks are in place the characters often take off in their own directions and I have to re-plot. Our writing group is having a “Winter Nano” challenge next month so I’m working on an outline now. We’ll see if the story ends up staying on course.

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  6. Suzanne, I loved this post. I PREFER to cut my own bangs — because I’m so darn impatient, it’s all I can do to sit in the hair-style chair! (My current stylist makes me hold a large roller with my chin so that I’ll stay still while she’s cutting. Sad, but true.) I’m a panster all the way, babe. Not only that, whenever I start writing a book, it irritates the crap out of me that it takes so dang long to get the words down! Why can’t they all just flow onto the paper as fast as the ideas in my head?? No fair, I say! No fair! Thanks for the laughs, hon. Great post!

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  7. I’m a pantster with a core story! I know where my story is heading and the conflicts that will emerge along the way. I don’t, however, chart things out. A scribble in a notebook here and there keep me on target (mostly).

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