A Pantsing Experiment

by Marcie Schwindt

photo by Lean Brooks - burningwell.org

Writing is a skill that cannot be honed by practice alone. To grow we experiment with and learn from the techniques, approaches and preferences of others. In that spirit, I gave “pantsing” (writing “by the seat of your pants”) a try.

A natural planner/organizer, I knew pantsing would be a real challenge for me.  The allure of this approach is the surprise. Not knowing what’s going to happen makes the piece exciting, some would argue addicting, to write and less predictable for the reader.

First I joined a brainstorming session on a subject I knew even less about—sports. The group developed a comedic short story about a young girl’s search for hockey equipment (women’s gear was virtually non-existent at the time) in order to play hockey with her new group of friends (all boys) on the local pond. Nearly three years later, I completed Hand-Me-Down Hockey.  As promised, the finished product was completely different than the idea I began with.

The lessons learned were mostly expected: I will never be a full-time Pantser. In my opinion, the tale took longer than it should have to complete, and I required more external validation than I’m comfortable with. I am not confident about the finished product, and, as much as I’ve been told not to, I know that I will rewrite it, again.

The approach does deliver for me, however, when I incorporate it into my planning process. By planning only the basic plot and structure of the novel and using the Pantser technique to fill in the blanks, I end up with an extended outline that falls just short of a first draft. And, as promised, the resulting story is exciting/addicting to write and less predictable for the reader. It also means that I can complete the story in only two or three drafts.

Are you a pantser or a planner? Have you ever tried the other way? If you have, what was your experience? If not, why not?

Marcie Schwindt makes stuff up for a living and loves every minute of it.

2 responses to “A Pantsing Experiment

  1. Becky Alexander

    Good article, Marcie! let’s hope some other folk read it and post comments, too. let’s get this baby rocking!


  2. Lee Anne Johnston

    Excellent article Marcie.

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