Why I Like Being a “Pantser”
by Janine R. Pestel
Yes, it’s true – I am a “pantser.” I do not make an outline when I begin a new short story, novella, or even a novel. Why? Because I haven’t “seen the movie” yet. You may be thinking, “What the heck is she babbling about?” Allow me to explain…
This is how my writing process works: First, I get an idea for a story. I mull it around for a while before I decide if it will be a short story, novella, or novel. Of course, sometimes I get fooled, thinking it will be one thing, but it turns out to be something else. Case in point, my novel The Bucktown Babies.
This was actually going to be a short story, but soon after I started writing, I realized it needed to be a full novel. There was just too much stuff going on in “the movie.” There’s that “movie” thing again. Don’t worry; I’ll get to that.
After I decide what form the story will take (initially), I finally sit down to write. Do I write the outline? No way! I’ll make some notes about the story and characters, but that’s about it.
Here’s where the “movie” comes in. Once I sit down and start writing, it almost feels as though I am watching a movie, and describing in words what I am seeing. For me, being a pantser and not using an outline keeps everything fresh and exciting. I think that’s because I really DON’T know what is going to happen to my characters. It’s almost like they have a life of their own. Oh, I have an idea, of course – after all, I am writing the story. But it still almost feels like they have a life of their own.
And this process has worked out pretty well for me so far. For example, in The Bucktown Babies, Father Gunter (a former priest) receives an item from another priest. In all honesty, when I wrote that particular scene, I had no idea the reason would be for that priest to give this particular item to Father Gunter. After I did some research on the demon I was using in the book, I learned that in demonology, this particular item DOES happen to have power over this particular demon. Yes, I lucked out there.
I know there are those of you who will probably read this and say, “You shouldn’t do that. You should make an outline so you know exactly where your story is going and how it will get there,” and, in a way, you would be right.
However, I happen to feel like an outline restricts me. I feel confined, almost imprisoned. Sort of like seeing the end of the movie, then watching the whole film from the beginning. Why bother? You already know what’s going to happen.
So, that’s why I like being a pantser. It’s fun and exciting, and you never know what’s going to happen next. Besides, I get to watch “the movies.” Right now, I’m watching the second Father Gunter, Demon Hunter movie, and you know what? It’s better than the first one.
Janine R. Pestel is the author of The Mons Connection and Infected and Other Short Stories as well as short stories in the scifi / occult / horror genre(s) and an upcoming paranormal / occult series. Always interested in science fiction, action adventure, and comedy, Janine tried her hand at writing a book back in the 1970s but did not have the direction she needed to complete it. Now, many years later, she has the drive and direction to write a complete book. Her only regret is that it took her this long to get going. Find her on Facebook.