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Plotting or Pantsing

Kyle Townsend


            Plotting or Pantsing?

            I was asked which I was for this post. But first, let me point out that the word “pantsing” sounds funny. It’s the kind of name you’d come up with on the playground when you’re about to pull down someone’s pants. Trust me on this, I’m young, I was there not too long ago.

            But the topic of this post is not funny words, but how I work as a writer. Do I plot, or do I go by the seat of my pants… however the saying goes?

            Let’s break my routine down.

            I have an idea, something general or something strange, and then I write for a bit. When I’m done, I put the work before me and I act sort of like a shark. Some sharks bump into their meals before they strike, testing it. I bump the words around in my head, play with the ideas, and, if I like the story good enough, I jump right in for a big bite.

            That’s also when I get ‘hooked’ by my own story.

            What happens next is the fun part. I make an entirely new document solely for outlining. I outline the setting and characters and some of the plot (first few chapters or so), and then dive right in.

            So yes, I do plot before I pants. Or… do I pants before I plot? I wrote the random idea first right? This is as complex as the chicken and the egg question… (which, by the way, scientists proved it the chicken came first).

            Putting confusion aside, what I don’t do is plot all the way. I make general ideas and statements and then let my characters grow with what things I throw at them. I continuously write. Usually, my character outlines are poor, so the very situations I put them in actually help me make the character!

            The sad thing about all this is that I usually have to trash all the ‘beginning’ material I wrote in favor of a finalized plot. After that, I start the first chapter and go until I can’t think of what’s going to happen next. By that time, my brain is so supercharged with creativity that I can write the outline of what happens next! I outline as I write!

            Behold the hybrid!

            Hah, maybe not. I usually end up re-outlining what just outlined in the next chapter anyway. Tad inefficient, but every step I take towards the end, my path becomes clearer. In other words, I pants as I plot and plot as I pants.

            It’s a circle.

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