Problems of a Pantser

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

As a follow up to my blog “Planner or Pantser? – Defining the Difference for a New Writer”, I have come up with some ideas of issues pantsers might come across. Each writer is different and what might be a problem for one, is not a problem for another. 

I created a poll in a couple of Facebook groups to find out what fellow writers thought. The top three results were plot development, timeline issues and character development. I will explain more about each below. 

Plot Development 

Plot development came out on top for my poll research. As a pantser, a writer does not plan an outline, or jots down the bare minimum so as they don’t forget all that is going on in their head. A pantser simply writes and sees where the story organically takes them. This keeps the writer in the here and now, chapter by chapter, and perhaps by the end of the first draft a whole array of plot holes may present themselves. 

I found this to be a problem when I was writing, and although I took on the persona of a pantser for my first manuscript, I did jot down ideas as they came into my head. This helped to piece together all the plot developments and how they tied together. When I printed a copy of my first draft to read over, I made a chart which included a chapter summary. This helped me to realise any plot development issues, so that I can plan to amend when I would start the editing process. 

When I looked at the comments on my poll, one writer described how his plot was over-developed. By this he meant having too much going on to simply be one book like he expected. 

Timeline Issues 

Timeline issues came second in my poll research. Again, without the planning and simply writing to see where the story takes the writer, pantsers face a problem of having timeline issues. An event that happened on one day, may later be mentioned to have happened at another time, or another place. 

This was another problem I face at the end of my first draft, but as with plot development, I included dates and locations in my summary chart to pinpoint any errors I made in relation to this as well. 

Character Development 

Third on my poll results was the issue of character development. Sounding like a broken record, this again was another problem I faced. A friend who acted as a beta reader told me after the first edit of my manuscript that she didn’t feel like she understood my characters very well. This meant I had to go back to the drawing board to ensure that I was showing enough, rather than telling. 

In my final edit, I have also tried to get my head into thinking more in the way of a deep point of view. This should help my readers to get more in the head of the characters, although I have written in first person rather than third. That shouldn’t matter, because I want the readers to have more of a connection with my lead female, and through her narrative and point of view, readers should gain a good understanding and relationship with the lead male and other supporting characters. Time will tell when I start seeking an agent.

Word Count 

This wasn’t as popular in my poll options, but in my mind, word count could be an issue faced by pantsers. When writing with no plan and no idea how long there is until the end of the manuscript, writers could end up with a first draft that falls short of average word count for their chosen genre. Likewise, if getting too involved with what is going on and doing too much showing. Yes, apparently there is such a thing as too much showing. It’s about finding a balance between show and tell. This is something I struggled with generally, but back to my point, too much could end up with a word count too high and words which are not required to get the point across. 

I think the key thing for a pantser is to carry on and do what feels right for the first draft. Go in the direction your writing takes you. Summarise like I did, or find a method that words for you, and rectify during the editing process. Nobody’s first manuscript will be perfect, and all writers will find things they want to amend. During my final edit, I have added in whole chapters, changed some details and moved scenes from one chapter to another, but in the end, I’m feeling happier with the result.