Monthly Archives: December 2011

Confessions of a Former Pantser

Our Friday Guest Post today is by Kathryn Anthony.

Kathryn Anthony is the author of the forthcoming Historical Fantasy novel, Konstantin’s Gifts. Her dystopian novella, Don Coyote de la Merika is available as a free download from Smashwords , iBooks and Barnes & Noble . She has also written two Regency Romances: An Immodest Proposal and The Clarendon Rose . She blogs regularly at Muse of Fire.

Confessions of a Former Pantser

For me, the first draft of a novel is like the infatuation phase of a relationship.

It begins with that first date—the early beginnings, when you’re not sure how well you’re going to get along, and whether this new story really has what it takes. Some pieces don’t get past that stage. But if they do, and if things start to click… well then, cue the music, the montage, the slow-motion clips of me and the novel getting ice cream, going to the park, laughing in a rowboat… You get the idea.

It’s all delirium, intensity, and fun times. Even when I’m not writing, some part of my mind is thinking about the story, the characters, and plot twists that lie ahead.

Sure, I know even then that there are some problems—a few slow bits, some awkward phrasing. But I’m just too enthralled by the story, by the fizz and pop of creativity, to feel anything more than a fleeting concern.

And then, come the revisions. Suddenly, those flaws that felt so minimal and fixable in the delirium of the first draft loom large, intimidating, insurmountable.

Sue’s recent post about her enjoyment of revisions  made me grin because I am indeed one of those people who really dislikes them. They have to be done—I agree completely with Sue on that point. A first draft, no matter how good, is more potential than reality.

But boy, do I hate them.

Part of my resistance to revising is because this is where I have to make good, and I fear that the final product—the best I can do—still won’t live up to my hopes for the project.

But you know what? Those doubts come with the territory. We begin a project because we have a vision of a story we’d love to read and of characters we want to meet. My final product may be an imperfect reflection of what I originally envisaged, but at some deep level, I feel I have an obligation to do my best by that story and those characters.

And ultimately, revising is like any other skill—the more you work it, the better you become. I’ve become better at spotting structural flaws, character stagnation—all that important stuff that can undermine a good story—thanks to the revisions I’ve done. Now, when I plan a story, I have those elements in mind. I chart out the flow, the character arcs, and the action, in order to minimize the flaws.

I used to be a pantser. These days, I plan, so that when I write, I can still lose myself to the infatuation, without worrying about the revisions lurking ahead.

Of course, I still have to revise. But now, those edits aren’t the major excavations they used to be. They’re far more delicate. The deletion of a scene or two here, the tweaking of the growing relationship between two characters there—nothing big enough to make me balk.

We each have different strengths. It may be that you’re able to skip all my early editing nightmares—and if so, you are lucky indeed. But, I have to admit that it was those early, major revision undertakings that taught me what to look for, and provided me with the skills I needed to write cleaner first drafts in subsequent projects. So, for all of you out there who hate revisions, fear not. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and boy, is it ever a nice day.

Catch Kathryn’s blog; tweet her at  or visit her Amazon profile page katanthony.wordpress.com

twitter: @writekatanthony

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