Plotting and Pantsing

Some writers like to do it by the seat of their pants. This is an acceptable and way of producing a book, especially if you are giving yourself a whole November to get a first draft. But it is not my way. I am a plotter. I like to know what is going to happen three nexts away in my story – forwards, backwards and sideways. I get excited by detail and confused by chaos. I create well within limits and I like my limits.


I have been surprised in my own life how much I have had to resort to Pantsing though.

I so wanted life to take a neat trajectory.

Instead, God allowed me to use years in ways which were not neat. He chose to allow me blessing at times I did not choose.

He removed people from me. And added new ones in.

He did not allow me to write my own life plot. Crazy; instead I have found more joy in living by the seat of my pants, by grace, one wriggle at a time. Am I grateful for that? The jury is still at odds. On my light days I imagine I would have been good at plotting my own story. I concede I probably would have been aimless and partial to digress on my more truthful days. Digression is a large part of my being and tethering it creatively gives me the tension I need for living well.

The book I am working on draws on my study, observations and life experiences so deeply that I fear I actually will need to live quite a bit larger, but this is where Pantsing comes in really helpfully. I can Plot as much as I like, but the work is organic and disorganised. I flit between researching character, history, theories, conjecturing, imagining and storyline and there is little plan to How I Plot. I find my method for Plotting is actually Pants.

Is there a problem with that? I don’t think so. The process is iterative. What I learn along the way informs how I do what I do next. Drafts are essential.

Also real life is essential and real life brings boxes that need unpacking, bottoms that need wiping and tears that need crying. I don’t believe any of that is wasted. If I am allowed, I may even be able to draw on the richness and mess of real life to write a more valuable book. You cannot plot everything.


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