Hello. My name is Natalie, and I am a pantser.
I blame it on my fourth grade teacher, who made me outline my social studies reading every. single. night. Night after night of Roman numerals and capitalized letters. The worst part of it was that she graded it. Let me say that again for emphasis: she graded my outlining, so misusing a subheading became a black mark on my report card, not a mere difference of opinion. Scarred? Why yes, I am.
I hate outlines. I hate the look of them. They are bloodless, soulless things, and they have no place in my fiction-writing life.
Well, until now.
The thing is, I hate outlines. But you know what I hate even more than an outline? I hate writing steadily and knocking up against a metaphorical brick wall because the muse I've been following has decided to do something more interesting. When I was writing my second book—a book that nearly killed me, but that's a post for another day—I pantsed it and encountered so many brick walls and roads-to-nowhere that I slammed my fist on a hard surface and vowed never again! I will outline, and I will spend more than five minutes on said outline, and in the end I will have a lighted path from word one to happily ever after, and life will be easier, flashbacks to fourth grade notwithstanding.
Here's another thing. I still hate outlines. I can't help it. So as I'm plotting my next novel, I'm trying to figure out a method that works for me but isn't quite so outline-esque. I plan every aspect of my life, but I like pantsing it because, hey, it's kind of fun to get those little surprises as you write! For instance, I had no idea when I set out to write The Seven-Day Target that the plot would involve a serial killer who left six signs over six days and killed on the seventh. That was pure pantsing, and it seemed to work out okay. I want to keep some of the joy of discovery, but maybe eliminate some of the frustration that comes when the muse goes off shopping.
I'm playing with a couple of different methods right now, including colored index cards and long synopsis-writing. I'm even toying with the idea of writing a bare-bones book and filling in the details later. I thought this might be a sneaky way to trick myself into believing I was pantsing it. I promise to update you further into the process to let you know if I can change my pantsing ways!
So tell me: are you a pantser or an outliner, and do you think it works for you?