I met KC Falls online a couple years ago. She’s got a great sense of humor, she’s a brilliant writer and she’s a good friend. She’s also not afraid to put hard work into writing and marketing her books, and here she gives a no-nonsense approach as to why she is a pantser and how it works for her.
I read a great deal about my craft. I read about marketing as well as the actual process of writing. Lately (and much to my dismay) I have read several pieces decrying the humble pantster.
We should all outline! Character sketches are the key to consistency! Story arcs give way to chapter arcs that drive the narrative! Write ten thousand words a day, consistently, if you follow these simple steps!
Focus groups, workshops and hundreds of books are devoted to making the creative writer better and more efficient.
The pantster is a fumbling bumbling writer who can’t possibly produce the kind of quality/quantity/speed. You fill in the blank.
I am a pantster. I always feel shamed when I read about how much better an author I would be if I changed my ways. My income would naturally rise due to productivity. I would be in control. I would be in charge. My writing would be organized. Neatness, order and calm would reign.
The trouble is that’s not the way I write. My stories begin with the barest of bones and even those are all rattling around in my head. I really don’t know what’s going to happen beyond the basics. I start and I take off. Sometimes there are days on end when I don’t write at all. This, according to almost everybody who voices an opinion, is a death knell.
When I stall, it’s time to do some marketing, step back from the book and think about it. When I’m done thinking and marketing, I come back to the story. Some days I write as many as ten thousand words. Rarely do I write less than three or four thousand. That’s when I write. I spend a lot of time not writing.
The not writing time is the thinking time. I am crafting in my head but plenty of time the characters have different ideas. So when I sit down to put the whole thing into words, my fingers fly and the book evolves.
I absolutely love it when my work surprises me. This usually happens when I do my first read through beginning to end. I typically review only the last couple of chapters when I sit down to write. This will horrify many, I am sure, but sometimes I don’t really remember every detail of the book from beginning until end while I am writing it. When I do the first read through it is one of the best ‘moments’ in a book’s life for me as the author.
Another naughty admission is that I sometimes forget the color of my hero’s eyes or hair. Particularly in my current series where I intertwine brothers—all dark hair, so that’s easy—only two of the five men have blue eyes. The organized writer would have at the minimum a character sketch with relevant details, right?
Me? I do a ctrl search for blue eyes. You have my permission to smack your head right now.
I made an attempt to outline my current WIP. It messed me up for weeks. I think my characters were angry with me. I lost several thousand words trying to push them down a path they emphatically did not want to take.
I’ve put over a half a million words out in my first two years as a writer. I will come close to equaling that this year, so I’m obviously getting better at my craft in spite of my wicked ways.
I work part time, at best. Unless you include thinking time. Then I work full time. Now, I could spend the moments I presently use for gardening, cooking (fanatically) and exploring my host country more ‘productively’. One of my challenges is not to beat myself up over the question of ‘how much better could I be if’: if I organized myself, if I knuckled down, if I networked more, if I Tweeted on schedule.
I will allow that I might be better at some things. Perhaps I would commit more words to paper. Perhaps I wouldn’t have moments when I am ready to throw all of my characters into a nest of vipers. Perhaps there would be fewer valleys.
Unfortunately, my peculiar make up tells me there would also be fewer peaks. I love the peaks.
Would I recommend this path? Probably not. I fantasize about using Scrivener and putting out three dozen books instead of the ten or twelve I will publish this year. But that’s a leap from last year, so I’m happy.
And don’t be looking for a “How to Write by the Seat of Your Pants” tome from me any time soon. Because truthfully I don’t think I could even begin to describe ‘how’ to do what I do. It’s that old “hold a moonbeam in your hand” thing. You just can’t.
I know me and I’m going to cut myself some slack and say: “It’s okay. You’re doing fine. Keep your pants on.”
So, are you a pantser or a plotter? And why?
Join us on Wednesday for Jacqui Jacoby and Heroines can Save Themselves!
Bio: K.C. Falls is a native of New York who traded the Big Apple for Big Sky country. Her Montana ranch is home to a menagerie of animals including one human male she shamelessly uses for inspiration. Her tales are sharp-edged stories with strong sexy heroes and the women they can’t resist.
K.C. finds time to feed the chickens, study Native Americana (she’s part Cheyenne–that’s what the ‘C’ stands for) and cook incredible food because there isn’t a restaurant around for many miles. She writes in between bites.
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- It’s Great Advice, But I Can’t Seem to Follow It – Donna Cummings