Three Ways To Avoid Pantser Pitfalls


I've talked in the past about my pantsing tendencies.  No matter how hard I try to outline or be a plotter, I always end up sliding back into my deviant ways.  So I've learned to accept it (mostly) at this point and try to work around the weaknesses of this method.


Here are three things that have helped me avoid some of the pitfalls:


Don't hit delete even when you HATE the scene.

Sometimes, the only way for me to move forward is to try a scene a few different ways to see where it goes.  That means I end up with a lot of words I can't use.  I used to just discard the version I didn't end up going with.  But that was NOT bright.  Oftentimes, I realized later that parts of the other version would've worked better or could've been used somewhere else.  And you know how words are, it's almost impossible to recapture them the exact way you had them the first time.


So now, I don't delete anything--even if I'm only going to play around with a scene to see if an element can be shifted, I cut and paste the original in my "cuts" file in case I decide I want to go back to it.  My cut file for this current WIP is 23,000 words.  Ugh.  I know.  But I'm glad I have that file.  This week it helped me out.  I had one scene that I thought I hated and never thought I would use, but then it ended up being just what i need in another part of the book.  I was so happy I had saved it.


Anticipate unscheduled vacation time for your muse.

Goals are great.  500/1000/whatever words a day.  Terrific.  BUT be careful about the goals of, I will have this book finished by said date.  Don't cut it so close that you haven't planned for road blocks.  Everyone hits blocks, but I think pantsers are even more at risk for it because we really don't know what's going to happen next so we lean very heavily on our muse.  And sometimes, that muse goes on a bender to Cabo.  So make sure you give yourself some cushion so that you can take a few days off here and there to let your mind rest and your creativity return.



Make notes (and remember where you put them).

Plotters tend to know their plot threads before they start.  They make these beautiful charts, usually color-coded, with each of the different plot lines and subplots and characters.  They mark where they need to drop in each respective thread within a chapter.  *turns green with envy*  I, on the other hand, come up with terrific ideas for new plot threads fifteen chapters in.  Therefore, I end up having a number of threads, clues, logic details that I need to add into the earlier chapters after I finish drafting the book.


All these little things can add up and are easy to forget.  So have ONE place (a word document, specific notebook, post-it notes to put on a paper manuscript) where you keep all of those reminders, so that when you start revisions, you know what you need to add in and fix.

So those are three simple things that I've learned the hard way.  Do you have any other tips that help you work around your weaknesses?  And if you're a plotter, what are some of the pitfalls of that method?  What are some of your tricks?

**Today's Theme Song**
"Once Bitten, Twice Shy" - Great White
(player in sidebar, take a listen)