by Janis Patterson
Just to be upfront, know that I am a pantser. When I start a book I have a vague idea of what the basic shape of the story is, but the idea of writing from a detailed outline not only makes me break out from stress, it also effectively kills any kind of creativity. In other words, I am bored with the story before it even begins.
I admit my style of writing has its pitfalls. Sometimes I simply sit and stare at the screen while it stares back at me. Sometimes an entire day’s work simply must be deleted because it just doesn’t take the story where I want it to go. To be honest, though, I have had the same problems when, during my ghostwriting career, I had no choice but to work from a detailed outline.
Pantser or plotter, there’s only one solution for when you hit a wall like that – write. Put one word down after another, again and again, repeat as necessary, until you have something on paper. If it has to be rewritten or even discarded later, you have something to work with, a base from which you can go forward. It’s not the dream of writing, nor is it the easiest task, but it is something every professional writer can do. Eventually the wall dissolves and the way becomes easier again.
And sometimes there is the Magic Click, that wonderful moment when everything falls into place and the book flows like molten butter. You suddenly know exactly where everything is going, what clues to put in, what is going to happen two or ten chapters down the road, sometimes all the way to the end of the book – an end that is imminently satisfying and logical, yet might not have the slightest resemblance to the original you envisioned.
Magic, indeed. But isn’t that what writing is? Surely it must be magic to create believable worlds and people from little more than imagination and caffeine.
Some writers say that writing which comes so easily is suspect and most likely garbage. Perhaps, but I’ve never found it so. Usually the post-Magic Click prose is among my best, some of which has stood as written without any changes at all from various usually tough editors. I personally think it’s because all the pre-writing is done in the subconscious and is fairly well edited before it erupts onto the page. Plus, just getting all those words down (as many as 8.000 during one rather spectacular session) is a purely joyous rush.
Pantsing is sometimes frightening, sometimes labor-intensive, sometimes frustrating. It is also great fun and very rewarding. In my opinion it creates a much more ‘alive’ and vibrant story. The Magic Click is just gravy.
Janis Patterson is a seventh-generation Texan and a third-generation wordsmith who writes mysteries as Janis Patterson, romances and other things as Janis Susan May, children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson and scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson.
Formerly an actress and singer, a talent agent and Supervisor of Accessioning for a bio-genetic DNA testing lab, Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups as well as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist.