Confessions of a Panster
Whether you are a fellow writer or a fellow reader, I want you to know something. I.AM.A.PANSTER. No, not a dancer, A PANSTER. Google it, look it up, see if it’s trending as #panster on twitter whatever you need to do. The bottom line is that I want you to know me. And why I write. And maybe by revealing myself to you, I will understand myself better in the process and ultimately become a better writer.
When I decided that I was a writer (not when I thought about becoming one), I tried to gather all the information I could find about fiction writing. Specifically romance writing since that is my chosen genre, at this time anyway. I downloaded books to my Kindle about how to write SEX scenes, how to write emotional scenes, plotting, grammar, outlining, publishing...you get the picture. I searched the blogs, I googled my little heart out wanting to learn everything I could that I hadn't learned as a Political Science major at university. I was searching for an identity I guess. A resource or tool that would tell me who I was as a writer. Pretty smart, right?! I majored in Poli Sci, I know how to do research. I also know you can research a thing to death and be stuck in
the exact same place you started in. You've heard of analysis paralysis right?
Anyway, once I decided I was going to write a book I needed to know the best and easiest way to go about doing it. So off the deep end I went again watching youtube videos, and searching blogs, etc...But the one technique to getting my book off the ground that I could not escape was the process of outlining. Queue the shower scene music from Psycho. Yes, it’s a nightmare. I don't want to. It's painful, it takes to long, it's not fun. And when I look at how other people outline? Color coding, index cards, Excel spreadsheets, cork boards that look like a serial killer's murder plan....I say no. It's like a map, I get it. But why can't SIRI fix it for me then? Honestly, it makes me feel stupid. It's intimidating.
With all that said, there are things that I enjoy about the planning stage of preparing to write a novel. My characters for example. I can spend days developing extremely detailed character profiles of every single person that appears in my book. And do you know why? Because they live in my head. And I want to spend as much time with them as possible. I could give a rats ass about a damn spreadsheet.
Now I'm not crazy, and I concede that you have to have some direction when writing that will get you from point A to B, and so on. My method is simple. It allows me to spend as much time as possible with my characters as they tell me their story which I will take any day over playing with highlighter pens and spreadsheets.
Here it is:
1. I get an idea for a story and it drives me freaking crazy until I write half a chapter or a prologue or something.
2. I create a detailed character profiles of my main characters (to start) and do some research to help create the world my characters live in.
3. I don't outline shit.
4. Okay I lied just a little on number 3. I write a blurb about the book so I know the beginning, middle, and end. And when I say blurb, I mean a few sentences. Anything more than that I start getting stressed out and have to drink some wine.
5. I make a CHECKLIST of what I want to happen in each chapter which takes only a few minutes. I do this right before I write that chapter. Sometimes I even reward myself by using that strikethrough tool to cross things off my “CHECKLIST” while I am writing the chapter. I dare you to call that an outline.
That’s it. That’s my process. It ain’t sexy but it keeps me sane and it keeps me engaged with my characters. Now, I want to make clear that I respect all the plotters out there. I sincerely envy you and wish I had the patience to do it. Because at the end of the day what matters most is finding out the process that works best for you that helps you tell the story you want to tell. There is no right or wrong way.