Pants vs. Plans

I am stuck.

This novel…eeeeuuugggghhhhhh.

That’s the sound I make when I’m frustrated.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my novel. I think it has a good beginning and a very strong ending, it’s just that, like almost 35% of people in Mississippi, it has a pretty wobbly middle.

Middles are notoriously hard. I have read many a blog post about the middle. My last instructor, Bill, bemoaned the middle of the novel. I’m starting to think that this is where the real ‘work’ part of writing lies. Beginnings are exciting; you’re introducing characters, the world they live in, the problems they face, and the conflict that arises. Endings are satisfying (to write). You tie up all the loose ends, you get to give your last powerful thematic punch, and then there’s the sense of accomplishment of hey! I finished my novel! 

Middles are messy. It’s where things can get lost or convoluted, or where the writer can change her mind, or where it can all seem so, so idiotic. I reached the middle of my novel on Sunday and since then I haven’t been writing so much as I’ve been doing this:

johnny depp slinky

And we all know how things ended for him (Spoiler Alert: not good).

Now I don’t necessarily have writer’s block, but I have reached some sort of obstacle in my planning. And I am a planner. I’ve been planning this novel meticulously since workshop. I have an outline with holes in it and I don’t know how to fill the holes. I know what I want my characters to realize, I know how I want them to change, I just don’t know how. There are too many options and not enough options all at once and I don’t know what to do.

Up until recently, I was known in writer world as a “panster” (my Mac keeps wanting to change that to ‘panther’ which would be much cooler). This means that I didn’t plot my novels when approaching them. Instead, I just wrote them from start to finish, making it up as I went along, raising the stakes, etc. It was mostly just to get words on the page. And it worked for me. I wrote four novels in three years. Bad novels collecting dust on my hard drive, but still. Novels.

I’m starting to wonder if I should retire the index cards and sharpies until I reach the last part of my novel, the part that I’m sure about, and just write. Planning worked in the beginning because I had to set a foundation, to set the stage for a novel that would take you on a journey with three other characters. It was immensely helpful. Maybe, for my middle, I need to trust my pants more than my plans. This is hard for me. I like to plan. I’m not a big fan of pants. I wear leggings as pants all the time because I don’t like real pants They aren’t as comfortable! I like to be comfortable and plans make me comfortable! WHY CAN’T I JUST PLAN IT AND THEN IT ALL GO ACCORDING TO PLAN?!?!?!

jon stewart paper and frustration

I think I’d be less frustrated if I knew pantsing was going to work. I could pants this thing and then I could still be stuck. Or I could write something terrible that I’d throw out and I will have wasted time. And aren’t you supposed to plan the whole way or pants the whole way and not do a combo of both?! Can I do a combo of both….?

Whatever. I’ll just try it. Who knows, it might help. It might get me un-stuck. At the very least it will show me what not to do.

We shall see I guess.

So here’s to flying by the seat of your pants. I’m out.

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2 thoughts on “Pants vs. Plans

  1. Funny thing, I just blogged about this very problem. This post is a week old, so I my reply may be out of date, but here’s what I did: I wrote what my scene chart said to write. I gave up trying to feel good about it. I just wrote it. Funny thing, as the writing progressed, the scenes started to develop and I said those magic words: “Hey, that’s not half bad.”

    Plan the novel, pants the scene.

  2. Pingback: Phase 1.5 of revisions (in other words, getting ready for Revisions Phase 2) | She is out with lanterns...

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