For the longest time, I was a pantser. I had tried plotting, and many times my story would jump the rails by chapter two or three, and all that hard work was gone. When I would write my stories or books, I would have a general idea of what I wanted to write and a handful of scenes or beats I knew I wanted to include, and I’d make it happen. However, as I grew older, I found I would flounder on my projects, frequently hitting roadblocks or not being sure where I wanted to go.
Fast-forward to today. I’ve been freelancing on Upwork, writing novel outlines for a client. They would give me a general idea sometimes, or now that they trust me, they let me run free with it all. I would produce a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of what would happen in the book, develop character and faction bios, and then, in turn, they would hand that to another writer, and someone would write a book based off that outline. Recently I’ve been struggling with my book. I know in a general sense where I want it to go, but after five chapters in, I’m floundering again. I decided to finally outline it, and I think it is going to be magical. Why do I think that?
Well, I might start ghostwriting for this same company that I’m doing outlines for and they wanted a sample chapter. Using the outline I wrote, I was able to produce 1700 in an hour. Those 1700 words were probably the easiest thing I’ve written in the last six months. I no longer have to stop and think where I want it to go or worry about writing myself into a corner because the entire thing is laid out in front of me. What is even nicer is the sample I am writing is based on an outline I completed for them, so I know the characters and the story well. I also know where it is going across multiple books so I can start laying breadcrumbs and foreshadowing events that take place in book three.
Is pantsing a bad way of doing things? Heavens no. I wrote a lot of things using that method, and it worked for me until I changed and it didn't anymore. As I mentioned above, there is no right or wrong way to do things. Just find the way that works for you and run with it. Hell, it may even be a hybrid of the two and that is fine! Just write and have fun with it. If that means plotting first, then plot. If it means pantsing, then do that. Now go write!