Pantser or Planner by Katy Walters

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Swinging from a Limb

Swinging from a Limb: Pantsing or Plotting?

Hi there, I’m Katy Walters and I’m delighted to share with you some thoughts on writing.

First let me give my version of explaining the way authors write. There are three types; pantsers, bloomers and planners – chastity belters.

If an author claims they write straight from the heart or the head without planning the story or having attended any college or Uni courses, then we have a true-blue pantser. However, we also have the writer with bloomers; pants to their knees held up by elastic garters, the ones my gran’ used to wear and inadvertently expose, as she warmed her knees by the fire. These bloomers covered more flesh, having attended writing courses, college or Uni, but they too, never plan their novels or stories. Now the ones who’ve attended all the classes and plan their story from beginning to end, these are the full-blown planners or chastity belters.

The pantsers or bloomers sit down at their PC with full knowledge of structure, planning, plotting firmly in their head from their studies, but that is where it stays. They do not plan the story or scribble notes on screen or notepad, neither when starting to write, have they any idea of the story, beginning, middle nor end.  Dean Koontz and Stephen King by their own quotes belong to this group. Both claim to allow the story to unfold from their minds onto the screen or notepad. All the pantser has, is a cup of tea, music and nibbles with a vague idea of the story or maybe a phrase or theme which catapults them into a story plucked from the ether.

So having tried to explain pantser, bloomer and planner, I must claim to be a bloomer all the way down to my knees. I write from the top of my head, no planning, just sheer writing. Yes, I did study at Uni’, yes I did practice with a group,  and I would encourage writers to read the  How-To books on how to write a novel, or how to write characters, etc., there are loads and loads of ideas and tips, which fascinate us authors, but that again is the stuff of another article.

So I thought I’d share some of my experiences.

When people discover I am an author they look at me kind of bug eyed or instantly pounce upon me, with myriad questions.   I am delighted, embarrassed and terrified at the questions I know will pierce my frantic brain. It seems to be a curiosity particular to writers – being asked questions I mean.  However, I too, am curious, as to why they want to know the minutest details. I mean why is an author instantly put under the microscope?  When I was a psychologist no-one asked me how much I earned, how long I had been doing it, how many clients I had.

As an author, I am usually faced with a barrage of questions, the primary one being, ‘do you sell many books?’  The trouble is, this usually takes place at a party where I barely know anyone, and don’t want to be centre stage. Just as I am about to take the first sip of wine – Dutch courage, I am asked where do I get my ideas, how do I plan it? Then someone will ask outright, how many books have I published, when did I start and why do I write. By the time they’ve finished I’ve downed the glass and hope the hostess will appear with another.

I suppose someone reading this will ask, why tell them? Good question, I don’t.  It’s just that every time we go out socializing; that is when hubby can tear me away from the PC, I warn him, plead, beg, ‘don’t tell anyone I write.’

He nods, smiles and agrees. But, after his second glass of wine or whisky, he waxes lyrical. For example, one evening I was just about to taste a delicious prawn when someone asked, ‘so, what do you do?’

He answered proudly, ‘Oh she writes. She’s an author.’’

I cringed; I didn’t know whether I put the prawn in my mouth or my ear.

So now surrounded, with questions flying, I quietly kick hubby’s ankle, but he grins and thinks I’m grateful.  I usually start by answering the question, ‘Where do I get my ideas?’ or ‘How do I plan it.’  I take a deep breath and say, ‘I’m a pantser.’

‘Oh really? Never heard of it.’ One woman said once, quaffing a brandy.

Seeing twelve pairs of eyes boring down on me, stranger’s eyes, I wanted to drink it for her and die quietly.

‘Yes I write by the seat of my pants.’  I didn’t explain they were knee length bloomers.

But then someone will ask, ‘don’t you have any idea, any plan?’

Of course, I have a rather a vague idea. It might be historical, romance, a thriller, or one of my favourites, time travel. I say in one sentence, ‘planning is not for every writer.’

After that particular party, I had a long conversation with hubby and insisted he never does it again. He agreed, and kept his promise until  I had agonizing pains in my hands and arms and had to go to the Accident and Emergency Unit at our local hospital. Whilst sitting helpless in the bed surrounded with doctors and nurses, one of them asked what did I do?

Yes you’ve got it; hubby beamed, rose on his heels and told them. ‘Yes, she’s an author….’

They all watched my blood pressure leap off the scales. The doctors agreed that I should be operated on as soon as possible, as I was an author; they decided I needed to be able to write – my writing must not be interrupted.  I looked at Brian, unbelievable. I was hoping for a steroid injection; that’s all, just a steroid injection that would last six months and then have another one. Quick – painless. I couldn’t believe it; he’d actually put me on the operating table.  I was operated on, had bones removed and six weeks in plaster, taking thirty mgs of  cocodamol etc. and all because hubby … well. I ended up dictating into a Dragon machine.   So you see where being an author can get you? This is true, honestly.

But on to happier things, as a bloomer pantser, each day I go to my study with my cup of coffee, switch on the music, put my fingers on the keys, and away we go. I love it; I never know what my mind has in store for me.  Together my brain and I fly over worlds that do not exist, well they do for me, cross the centuries, live, love and laugh with the most astonishing characters, some angelic, or feisty, positive, morbid, loveable or downright evil. The old green curtains in my study, became the snow-clad peaks of the Himalayas, the stained carpet a wild flower meadow, my decrepit seat, a Queen’s throne, a Duke’s carriage or an ancient stone. My jeans become the flowing drapes of a Regency belle; the robes of King Arthur’s latest amour, or maybe the pearly tail of a mermaid.

This is the way of a blue blood pantser right down to the knees. My grandmother would be proud of me.

Oops time has flown, and I am not sure how many words I can write so I shall stop now, and hope to be allowed to come again and chat some more. I’ve loved sharing and hope you enjoyed it.   Just one thing James Joyce was a pantser too. Some writers like to give it prestige by call it a stream of consciousness but to me; I’m flying by the seat of my pants.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2000/oct/01/stephenking.sciencefictionfantasyandhorror

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Books/story?id=127753&page=1

PS Don’t start a collection for the stained carpet, old curtains and decrepit chair; we’ve just moved, and I’ve inherited them, but we are off to IKEA for some more. By the way, we were just invited to a welcome party by our new neighbours to get to know each, guess what hubby said?!

I do hope there are not any errors in this. Hubby usually edits for me. But I can’t possibly show him this.

– Katy Walters

[Note: Rachelle Ayala is posting for Katy.]
Rachelle Ayala

Rachelle Ayala is a bestselling author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Her foremost goal is to take readers on a shared emotional journey with her characters as they grow and become more true to themselves. Rachelle believes in the power of love to overcome obstacles and feels that everyone should find love as often as possible, especially if it’s within the pages of a book.

Her book, Knowing Vera, won the 2015 Angie Ovation Award, and A Father for Christmas garnered a 2015 Readers’ Favorite Gold Award.

She is also a writing teacher and founder of the Romance In A Month writing community. She lives in California with her husband and has three children and two birds.

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Rachelle Ayala

About Rachelle Ayala

Rachelle Ayala is a bestselling author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Her foremost goal is to take readers on a shared emotional journey with her characters as they grow and become more true to themselves. Rachelle believes in the power of love to overcome obstacles and feels that everyone should find love as often as possible, especially if it's within the pages of a book. Her book, Knowing Vera, won the 2015 Angie Ovation Award, and A Father for Christmas garnered a 2015 Readers’ Favorite Gold Award. She is also a writing teacher and founder of the Romance In A Month writing community. She lives in California with her husband and has three children and two birds.

8 thoughts on “Pantser or Planner by Katy Walters

  1. I can’t see what this is about re writing. Or conversely it is so convoluted it entangles itself. One sits down and writes. Knowing of course everything and pick up a few extras along the way. So why all the trees for the wood -hidden.

  2. Thanks for the morning laugh, Katy, love this post! I guess I’m a bloomer also 🙂 And I think your husband is awesome- it’s great that he’s so proud he wants the world to know what you do!

  3. Funny to read, Katie. My husband was proud of me being an author, too, and would always tell people. I usually just shake my head and tell them it’s nothing. If they persist, I try to sell them a book. Or I give them my card.

    I’m a bloomer too, I see. Thought I was a pantser, but I’ve attended too many classes for that to be true. I used to plot everything, now I just write. When I get into a corner, I either write my way out of it, or go get my son, Nolan, to give me an ending. He’s good at that. So I write away without any worries.

  4. Love this story, Katy!! Please share a lot more with us.
    Guess I’m a bloomer too. When you wrote about going to your computer and entering another world, that’s me. With just a vague idea from where I left off, I start the day’s writing and am often shocked at where I end up LOL!! It’s a ride that I love.
    xo

  5. Thanks for the smile. I realized long ago that people are just curious and a bit envious at what they see as a glamorous occupation. They’re just indulging their curiosity so I don’t let it bother me.

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