In Celebration of Pantsing

Keeping children entertained: full time job

Keeping children entertained: full time job

Sorry I’ve been quiet this week. On top of drafting a new novel, which has been draining my energy, I had my daughter at home on Wednesday, because the teachers were on strike. Goodness knows how I’m going to write or blog in the school holidays: I think I might have to try and plan to have manuscripts with editors so I can take the time off without guilt and frustration.

On the plus side, I am really enjoying getting stuck into a new novel, especially one where I have no idea what’s going to happen next. With a Romance, there’s a certain inevitability to the plot, no matter how much you try and avoid cliches and tropes. Eventually boy meets girl, they have some problems, but they get together in the end.

With this Middle Grade fiction book I started only with a character and a rough idea that it would be a fantasy book, along the lines of The Divide – one of my favourite MG books in recent years. (The first book in the trilogy is currently free on kindle. Bargain!) The trick will be to avoid plagiarising Elizabeth Kay’s book and coming up with my own, original, story, while still learning from what I read.

The best bit about Pantsing (writing by the seat of your pants) is that you avoid the info-dump. The most tedious part of editing a first draft of a Romance novel for me is that I always info-dump in the first couple of chapters, so have to go back and rewrite whole sections. In fact, for both Baby Blues and Class Act, I ended up adding a bunch of chapters at the beginning of the manuscript, to turn the info-dump into action.

But when you know nothing more about a character than his name and the fact that he lives in a farmhouse with his mum and two older siblings, it’s much easier to drop in backstory as required and as it occurs to you. Then the second draft becomes about continuity.

I’ve just watched a top tips video by Barry Cunningham, the man who published Harry Potter, on how to write children’s stories. His first four tips (the fifth covered submissions) could be summarised as:

1. Put yourself back in the age group you are writing for: remember the excitement of that age [Ah crap, I can hardly remember being a child]
2. Include lots of details: The setting. What are they eating? What do they look like? Kids love detail [Oh dear, I’m not one for reading or writing lots of detail]
3. Planning: make sure you know when to introduce and remove characters, when your climaxes are, in order to keep the reader engaged [This is a blog post on Pantsing. Enough said]
4. Remember the importance of humour, especially in dialogue [My book is shaping up a bit dark and depressing. I’m screwed]

Oh well. Plenty of stuff to work on in the second draft! For now I’m enjoying finding out what happens next.

4 thoughts on “In Celebration of Pantsing

  1. “Goodness knows how I’m going to write or blog in the school holidays: I think I might have to try and plan to have manuscripts with editors so I can take the time off without guilt and frustration.”

    This is exactly what I do and it works very well. I try to start new projects in September so I don’t spend half the first term reacquainting myself with what I’m doing and I try to give up all writing, barring the odd blog post, in the holidays when I turn into Mumzilla full time. It takes a bit of doing but it definitely helps contain the angst and guilt for me 🙂

    Cheers

    MTM

    • It might even be quite liberating and refreshing, not thinking about writing at all for a few weeks. I can read and read instead! 🙂 and it gives some useful deadlines instead of plugging on day after day… Thank you for the knowledge that it works

  2. As a certifiable pantser, I find it interesting to confirm that my draft writing method of choice will help me avoid info-dumps, but I can see that my continuity problems are the result of my pantsing ways as well!
    Makes sense, but I haven’t put the two together until you put it so well in this post.. 🙂

    Those cookies look like they’re going to be yummy!

    • Hehe hurrah for pantsing! Since writing Two-Hundred Steps Home (when I couldn’t go back and fix continuity errors) I’m actually enjoying staying on top of them (when I realise they’re there of course!) I learned to sort of hold the story in my mind, forwards and backwards, and realise I’d done something like having the protagonist get muddy and then saying it’s been a glorious hot summer!

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