Writer Life Lesson #15: Write by the Seat of Your Pants

There are as many types of writing as there are writers. No two writers will write the same way and that is a great thing. You could give two writers the same general idea, like say “Pancakes” and one writer could give you a recipe, while another will give you a ten page short story on why they hate pancakes. There are no two writers that write exactly the same, and there are no two writers that plan exactly the same either.

This week’s lesson is about planning, or rather the opposite of planning. Write by the Seat of Your Pants.

Anyone who knows about NaNoWriMo or Camp NaNoWriMo knows that it is a crazy experience and sometimes your novel does not go as planned. Part of that is the plan I think. Since the goal is to write a novel in a month, and there are things like distractions, and life that get in the way, I think part of the goal is not to plan. I used to be what is called a “pantser”, which means you write by the seat of your pants and even you as the author are surprised at what comes next. A lot of my novels in high school were written like that, and some of them might actually be decent.

So this lesson comes for nearly perfect timing during Camp NaNoWriMo. It’s day 10, which means that the month is a third over, and that also means that if you have been writing for 10 days straight you might be hitting a wall right about now. That’s ok! It’s totally fine to hit a wall, or take a break.

If you haven’t started yet, and still want to work on a novel this month, that’s good too, you still have 3 weeks to get down as many words as you can.

Oh, but what about plot? What about an idea to write for the rest of the month?

Here’s where the lesson truly comes in. Pick an idea, or a character, or a setting and just run with it. No planning, no outlining, no concrete structure. Just a single idea to guide you through the month, or what’s left of it.

A lot of good can come from writing by the seat of your pants. You can find out  things about your characters that make your book completely different, they can excite you like real people do and develop like a real friendship would. They can also be little shits and not want to do a single thing you say, but writing without an outline, without fitting them into a tiny little box of actions, is freeing both for you as the author, and them as your characters.

Writing by the seat of your pants also allows for easier changes, if you hate your plot and your outline. I don’t outline very much, very often, because it ends up changing anyway most of the time. When I first started outlining, I would deviate even a little bit and feel so bad because I felt like I wasn’t living up to my own expectations. When I would just write, I would be so surprised, so excited as my characters develop. Or in the case of 2010 NaNoWriMo, a lot of laughing at names and dialogue. (That is what happens when you write 7K in one day to finish on time).

So try writing without an outline, try pantsing and see what happens. And if you absolutely hate it, there will be a post on outlines next week.

Happy Writing!


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