Tuesday, 14 February 2012

A pantser's crisis of confidence

This is what's going through my brain at the moment:

I am not a published author. I've written 14 complete first drafts, but I have yet to take the next step. I've never tested my methods to find out if a first draft written by the seat of my pants really can be turned into an acceptable novel. People all over the internet say it can't, that I wasted my time writing that crappy first draft. I should have just sat down and written a decent outline in the first place and then I wouldn't be smack bang in the middle of a crisis of confidence right now.

All these people are telling me that planning before you write is vitally important to the success of every fictional endeavour and as always I start to wonder if they're right. After all, they're successful authors with publishing contracts and real books out there in the big wide world. Are these people telling me things that I really need to know and I'm just too stubborn to be able to comprehend their awesomeness?

This is me, though:

I am an addict. I write because if I don't write the demons start biting at the edge of my mind and the more insane aspects of my psyche start turning up in the real world.

No, I write because I love it. I love sitting down and wondering what's going to happen next. I love the fights and the weirdness and all the stuff like that. I love that characters turn up and solve problems with random seductions or stabbings. I love that in the end it all comes together and I suddenly understand all about the story even though the story I come to understand isn't really the one I just wrote. The first draft is all about discovery, about me and my muse letting all the insanity flow freely and seeing what's going to come of it.

I don't feel like it's a matter of bone-headed stubbornness making me think it's better to write by the seat of my pants. It's just the way my brain seems to be wired. Maybe there's something broken in there or maybe someone left something out when I was in school. I don't know. All I know is that I'm going to be thirty in a couple of months and that I've never been able to write so much before. I spent at least ten years trying to plan novels and one year learning how to write drafts without any damn planning. Over the ten years of planning I have a grand total of zero completed drafts. One year and two months of 'pantsing' gave me fourteen.

The thing is, though, I've only proved that I can write a dodgy first draft. What I haven't proven is that my dodgy first draft can be turned into a decent story. That's where I am right now, complete with insomnia-inducing, stomach-knotting anxiety. I need to find out if 'they' are right about all the planning or if I really can succeed in spite of my crazy idea about doing the planning in between the first and second drafts.

I'm not sure if there was a point to this post at all. Maybe I should have outlined it first. Yes, that was a poor attempt at a joke, but I'm leaving it in anyway.

So right now I'm trying to pick which one of those fourteen drafts should become my first rewriting project of 2012. Then I'm going to dive into planning and rewriting with all my characteristic insanity, all of which I intend to include in the finished work. Wish me luck.


  1. [...] Writer’s Block. It’s that time when I feel like I can’t do it and things like this post get written. I don’t usually add my ramblings on depression and futility to my blog, but that [...]

  2. Siana, a Pantster can be published. I'm a Pantster, and I had two (count them) TWO publishing contracts. The only reason why I'm still not published is after my mom died, I went out on the road in a big rig (aka 18-wheeler), and the internet connections weren't always available, so I couldn't get my edits back in time.

    So, don't give up Pantsting. Even though I'm trying to learn how to plot over on PlotMo, doesn't mean I'm going to completely quit writing by the seat of my pants. I'm just trying to add to my writing skills.

    Amy P. Reed
    http://www.nightlifechron.com - Night Life Chronicles