Wanderings of a Pantser
Sometimes when I write, it can feel like one of Billy’s Wanderings from Family Circus. Somehow I get to the destination, but it’s not always the straightest route. It’s kind of part of being a pantser (no outlines).
I worked on an urban fantasy short story last week called “Green Magic on Connecticut Avenue,” where I did a very pantser-thing to do: I wandered off in the wrong direction for about two thousand words. The story was for a short story workshop, and the requirement was to follow specific guidelines, like I would be if I were submitting to a magazine.
As the story evolved, I changed the POV character.
At 2,000 words, I rechecked the guidelines out of habit. As a visual spatial learner, it’s something I’ve learned to do because of how I read. I don’t read from one word to the next word, sounding it phonetically. Rather I take in the word as a whole in an instant and hop from word to word. Sometimes I skip a word, and this is just how I read, but it creates a big headache if skipping that word changes the instructions. So I always recheck myself at some point to make sure I didn’t read it wrong.
With the POV change, I’d veered away from the guidelines. Oops.
So I had to restart the story with the original POV character and toss out the 2,000 words.
According to years of what I’ve read — particuarly from outliners — this is abolutely INEFFICIENT. If I’d mapped out the story, I wouldn’t have wasted writing 2,000 words.
If I’d mapped out the story, I would’ve have likely wasted ALL the words. I didn’t know who the characters were until I started writing, and in fact, I ended up adding a character I didn’t expect and losing a character I thought was going to be in there.
Sometimes the best path is to wander.