5 Things I Learned from Pantsing 15k in 30 Days

In no particular order…

Time Management is Key

Dear Past and Current Sages,
You are not the Doctor, Hermione Granger, or Tim Lake. You cannot time travel. You cannot be in two places at once. And you cannot make 6 hours out of 1, so we would really appreciate it if you could stop with the procrastination and the multi-tasking that isn’t really multi-tasking.
All Future Sages in Perpetuity

In all seriousness, time is limited and life gets in the way. There’s day jobs to be worked, chores to be done, and various other unavoidable time sinks. That’s just how life works. But making a success of something means actually dedicating the time needed to it. And it’s fine if that’s only an hour, half an hour, even ten minutes a day – but it needs to be focused, dedicated time and not ‘faffing about with half an eye on things’ time. This is an area where I need major improvement.

Accountability and Motivation are Important

There were so many times this month when I wanted to give up. Without getting into too much ‘woe is me’, I’ve always really struggled with the change of seasons, and then on top of that there’s just been a lot going on outside of my writing life that’s been impacting on my writing life. But it’s also a lot harder to just up and quit when there’s people looking.

This isn’t NaNo specific – if I’ve set my goals in public and there’s someone (or several someones) checking up, I’m much more likely to make sure I’m on target. So I want to thank Robyn Sarty, the BXP Team, the WandeRimos, and the Clarens WriMos for giving me a reason to stay on track.

Also, when I was really down about everything, I bribed myself with a cheeseburger and I got 3k done in 3 hours because of it. So… There’s always that.

Pantsing Doesn’t Work For Me Anymore

At least, not for long form fiction. I lost a lot of my already limited writing time to “what next?”. I could easily have gotten another 5k (which would have seen me hit my original goal of 20k for the month) if I had had more of a roadmap for the story than just “sort of like Wicker Man, but with a female protag”. I don’t think I’m ever going to be a full-on plotter but I definitely need a few more joists in the build to make the best use of my time and produce the best story I can.

Research Helps

And so does knowing WHAT to research. Because of the nature of my other two major projects, I’ve been able to do most (not all) of the work on them without much research beyond checking a song’s release date or looking up the popularity of a name in a given year. I’ve lived in the places that are the basis for Number 19, and Meg’s Story is entirely fantastical – I make the rules.

I want Wickerish to be realistic (at least, as realistic as an occult thriller can be). But my experience of tiny islands is limited to The Wicker Man and The Decoy Bride, and I found myself guilty of n-dimensional geography on more than one occasion. I found it especially difficult to write because I couldn’t help wondering if I was going to offend anyone by misrepresentation of their home, culture, traditions etc.

Anyone want to sponsor me a research trip to the Hebrides? Or the Shetlands, the Orkneys, or the Faroes? No? Oh well, I’ll get there eventually.

It’s Okay to Shift the Goal Posts

3 days ago, my goal was still 20k. It had taken me 26 days to make it to 10k, and I was going to have to do the last 10k in 3 days – 2 of which were also day job days, meaning I’d be out of the house and unable to write for 12 hours on each day.

I found myself paralysed by the sheer magnitude of the task ahead of me. I wasted countless hours staring at the screen instead of writing, because I was so scared of the amount of work I had to do. I couldn’t do it.

And then I realised I could adjust my target. I cut 5k from my goal. I was still going to have to write 5k (a little under, but close enough) in 3 days, a big ask from someone whose daily word count is usually around 500, but I suddenly felt like I could breathe and think and write again. And I did.


I’m shelving this project for now, even though it’s nowhere near finished. I want to put all of these things that I’ve learned to use in finishing Number 19. If I get everything done in May, like I want to, then I’ll be revisiting this in June for the second round of Camp NaNoWriMo (and hopefully I’ll have done a bit more research by then).


3 thoughts on “5 Things I Learned from Pantsing 15k in 30 Days

  1. The good old pantser. I remember her. She fooled me once but never again.

    On a serious note there is a way to balance pantsying and planner. I learned a technique called chapter by chapter outline. Think of a puzzle piece where every chapter must fit into another. I did this with my first novel and it worked.

    Each chapter had a brief outline. When it was time to write I simply filled in the blanks. Soon the puzzle piece came into view the same way an actual puzzle would.

    The result: I was signed in September. My book comes out in August.

    Try it.


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