Lisa Q. Mathews

Confessions of a (Closet) Pantser

November has been a big month for me. My first book CARDIAC ARREST was published and—miracle of miracles—Book Two is safely in my editor’s hands. So now I’ve turned my attention to a few things I may have neglected for a while. Like my closet.

But before we get to that (I’d rather not), I should tell you that I am, by nature, a Pantser. We’re the kind of writers who gleefully fly by the seat of our pants. We toss aside (well, mostly) that guilt about not creating a detailed road map for our stories. We prefer to see where the drive—and our characters—will take us, for better or for worse.  Pantsers love to extoll the freeing, creative advantage of this approach. And sometimes we take a bit of grief from our total opposites: the Plotters.

Plotters love, love, love to outline—the more detailed the notes, the better. You’ll rarely find them craning their necks for an exit ramp to pull a U-ie because their story suddenly went south.

And then there are the Hybrids, who are neither true Pantsers nor Plotters. I want to be in that club, but so far, I’ve never been invited to pledge.

Okay, now you’re thinking I’m getting away from the closet deal. (See, this is why I’m a Pantser.) What I meant to say is that I literally own an entire closet full of unworn pants. Mostly of the writer variety: Jeans. Sweat pants. Yoga pants (definitely more flattering on Yours Truly). Oh, and a bunch of conference clothes, because, as Mary-Kate and Ashley’s characters (I forget which) warned in the Two of a Kind books, you can’t be an Outfit Repeater.

mka

My writing area is located directly next to my over-stuffed closet. Lately, I couldn’t even get the door shut on The Beast. Each morning, I sort of snaked my arm in and extracted something to wear. I couldn’t look, because then I would have to organize it. (Did I mention Pantsers are also champion procrastinators? Any excuse, and we’re outta there.)

But now, with my manuscript done and The Ladies Smythe & Westin series safely launched, it was time to approach The Beast. I needed a pep talk, of course, before plunging in. Here are two great articles I found: one about the methods of Marie Kondo, a Japanese tidying consultant (hint: each item in your closet must “spark joy”) and another from the awesome Drew Barrymore, who sounds a lot more like me.

I swear I’m not a hoarder, but yeah, I’m sentimental about that dress I wore when I met my husband and that rugby team tee-shirt and my late dad’s herringbone vest.  I still have my old figure skates, and yep, that red power suit from my NY editor days. All those ghosts from my closet tell stories, and as a writer I can’t bear to delete them. But the pants? They’ve got to go. Pronto.

Bet you thought I’d show triumphant Before and After pics here. Well…I’m still working on it. I hope to be an organizational empress before those revision notes arrive, but I have made progress on the pantser thing. See? Here are the jeans I’ve sorted: Donate to the left, Keep to the right.

Jeans.to.go

As we approach the Black Friday frenzy, I’ve vowed to become a little less Pantser, and a lot more Plotter. This could be the beginning of a beautiful new closet. And maybe even a whole new way of writing.

So, Pantsers, Plotters, Hybrids, and Readers—any great tips to keep me on track?

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9 thoughts on “Confessions of a (Closet) Pantser

  1. Great post, Lisa! I’m a dedicated plotter, but also leave the door open for inspiration to strike — pretty much what you call a hybrid, but I like to think of it as “improvisational plotter.” I love the thrill of discovery while writing, but I hate heavy revisions — especially having to trash perfectly good chapters when the plot changes direction. Now, as for my closets: I’ll get to those as soon as I finish *my* book two! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My plotting never makes it past chapter 5! I like to keep an idea of the ending, but even then it doesn’t always work out.

    Ugh, less than 1K to go in this nano… I feel like the marathoner at mile 26 with just .2 to go.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You can do it, Cori!!! Hang in there! Drive past Heartbreak Hill (have never run the Boston Marathon but I’ve heard about it).

    Like

  4. Hi, Lisa! Join the club cause I’m a pantster too. It can be slow for me because my rough first draft is mostly dialogue with lots of weird notes as I go along. Then I edit and edit. But it works for me and that’s what is important.

    Congratulations on your book. Quite exciting!

    Liked by 1 person

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