The Art of Pantsing | Writing Shenanigans

Friday, July 7, 2017

If you clicked on this because you thought I was going to teach you how to make pants, feel free to close the tab because I don't know the first thing about making pants. I do know a thing or two about the art of pantsing*, which is to just wing your way through a novel. Yeah, it sounds insane, doesn't it? "WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?" Screeches every single planner out there in the writing world. The answer, my friends: because I can. Also because I'm a very pants-y person in real life.

*again nothing to do with making pants. WHY ARE YOU HERE FOR A GUIDE ON HOW TO MAKE PANTS ANYWAY?

The approach

I like to think of pantsing not so much as no plan at all, but rather as a very loose plan in which you kind of know the destination, but you're also kind of leaving room for adventure and some mayhem.

It's you taking your characters and the vague idea of where you want them to go and just going. No detail planning, no stressing. Just giving them and yourself the chance to explore and roam and maybe fall down a very unexpected plot line that you'll either end up loving or hating and throwing into the trash. BUT YOU WENT ON THE ADVENTURE! I like to think of pantsing as a huge giant unplanned adventure. So, when you think of it like that, it doesn't seem so crazy, right?*

*Please tune out the sounds of distress of every single person who loves to plan reading this post and pronouncing me absolutely insane. They'll be fine. I hope.

Listening to your gut (and your characters)

I find that in the art of pantsing listening to your gut (and your characters) is of crucial importance. The only thing that takes more importance is having sufficient snacks for when nothing goes right and you want to burn everything.  If we are to think of pantsing as an unplanned adventure there's going to be moments in which nothing will seem to go the way we want it to* and inevitably that can mean that something just isn't working.

So, it's time to stop and smell the flowers or just run from that dangerous looking stranger in the woods and take a different road altogether. Either way, the best bet you have is to listen to either your gut or your characters and go where the story wants to go. It's important to recall that you're not the master of this situation and that the story will go where the story wants to go and if you try to force it YOU WILL STRESS EAT AND CRY AS WELL AS SCREAM AT YOUR SCREEN IN FRUSTRATION AND THEN JUST PROCEED TO FLIP YOUR DESK!**

*is this a flaw of not having a plan? Maybe. I like to think of it as the risks of exploring an uncharted territory
**not that I would know. Naturally pantsing comes very natural to me, so I'm just assuming this is true. I'VE GOT THIS OKAY

Be true to your story

You embarked on this magnificent adventure for a reason. With the pantsing it's kind of easy to take side roads that aren't really true to your story and explore them for no other reason that you can. So remember, when the lure of that city of gold or extraordinarily good cake appears, that it wasn't part of what you wanted and that even though you might really, really want to go down that avenue you can't. Going on an adventure doesn't mean following every single thing you want to do. So, stay true to your story, to your adventure and go forward to that kind of elusive destination you set out for in the beginning.

Are you more of a pantser or a plotter? Or are you a healthy mix of both?


  1. I would have to say that I am definitely a mix of pantser and plotter. I have major things that I want to happen, and I usually know the end (except for that one time I totally planned for one of the MCs to die and then realised I COULD NEVER). But as for the general flow and random things that happen - I pants them. I think, for me, plotting every tiny detail would take some of the fun away. Some of my favourite things I've written have been random things that have jumped out at me while writing. And I love that I can add those things in without feeling like I'm going against a plan because I don't have a perfect plan for my books :D

    Although sometimes I do wish I had everything planned out because I can get stuck. And I hate getting stuck D: But even then i try to figure it out by planning and it doesn't always work.

    I don't think any writing style is ever perfect but I think finding the one that fits you is the best thing you can do!

    1. You, my friend are a rare breed of writer that refuses to kill her characters and I admire and respect you for it. The world needs more of you.

      I think a mix of plotting and pantsing is ideal, but like you said the best writing style will never be perfect, but you have to find the one that works the most for you.