A few weeks ago, I read Stephen King’s On Writing. Overall, it was a great and informing read. Definitely a book I will be reading time and again. I highly recommend it.
However, I must admit that at times I wanted to skip the autobiography part and move on to the writing advice part. But I’m glad I stuck it out and kept reading.
That first part about King’s life ended up being inspiring to read. His journey to success gave me hope for my own. When King experienced the joy of selling his first novel, I got a little taste of what it will be like when I sell my first novel. I get butterflies just thinking about it.
The second part contained tons of helpful writing advice. I considered it very valuable because it was coming from one of the world’s most renowned writers. His analogy of writing tools as a toolbox helped me see the levels of importance and use that grammar and style have in writing.
What struck me the most from the entire book was that King is a pantser and a big advocate of pantsing. Before I read this book, I was a stubborn plotter. I could not face a blank page or screen. Words would not come. I had to have a good idea of what I was going to write about.
Then King opened my mind. He is pretty convincing, I must say. He uses another analogy to show the reader that pantsing is the way to write. He says that writing a story is like an archaeologist carving out a fossil. It’s already there. You just have to unearth it. So don’t worry about outlining and plotting. Just write. The story will reveal itself if you use the right tools.
King convinced me to try pantsing.
I tried plotting my first novel back in November. It didn’t go so well. I struggled to come up with more scenes. Nonetheless, I have always thought this was the way for me.
Maybe I’m wrong.
Now I’m giving pantsing a try. See how that works. Maybe I’ll work better that way. Maybe I won’t. There’s only one way to find out. And that’s by pantsing. Right now, I’m writing my second novel. It started as a pantsing session, which I found liberating.
I’m not advocating pantsing for everyone. Every writer is different and may be a panster or plotter or something in between.
I know that sometimes pantsing backfires, and the story never gets anywhere. The writer is sometimes left with thousands of useless words. That is something to keep in mind when pantsing.
But, if you think about it, the same can be true of plotting. All of my false starts involved never getting past the planning stage. I created worlds, characters, settings, even languages, without ever getting a word of the actual novel written.
There are pitfalls in any writing method.
If anything, I think pantsing is a great way to jumpstart a novel for those of us who get stuck in planning mode.
But even more than learning that pantsing is a valid and often effective method of writing (for some writers), my greatest takeaway from On Writing was that writers should be open minded. You never know what could work for you.
Have you read On Writing? What did you think? Are you a pantser or plotter? Both?