2018 releases

Hell's Bell
Scent of the Jaguar
His Outback Nanny
The Queen's Game
366 Days of Flash Fiction
On the Horizon: Simple worlds of speculative adventure
Lusting the Enemy

Saturday, December 11, 2010

It's Dark and I Don't Know Where I'm Going

The title of this post pretty much sums up how I feel most of the time when I'm writing. You see, I'm a pantser through and through.

For those of you who don't know, a pantser is someone who 'flies by the seat of their pants' when it comes to writing. As in, I just sit down and I write. I don't plan anything out. I don't have characters profiles, story arcs, future scenes or dialogue. It's all blank.

What starts me off is usually the ghost of an idea. For example, in my recently released book, Sanctuary, you get to meet the demon, Alastor. He makes a deal with Nakita, who is the best friend of Sanctuary's heroine, Tori. The deal is basic; Nakita won't by hurt by either him or anyone else - demon, angel or human - as long as she goes with him to use as leverage to get Tori.

I'm tree-quarters of the way through writing the second book to Sanctuary, titled (for the time being) Severance. When I sat down to write the book, all I knew was that for some reason, the deal between Alastor and Nakita still existed, even though the agreement had come to an end. So, against his will and possibly better judgement, Alastor is forced by the bounds of the contract to protect Nakita. I could foresee some of the complications this might bring for them both, how they might be brought back together and work out the deal was still in effect, but nothing beyond that.

So I start writing. The only way I can compare this type of writing is to say its like reading a book. You sit down, open it up and start discovering the story. You have no idea what's going to happen. Though you might have some ideas, you can only go along for the ride, finding out little bits at a time as you read page after page.
Believe it or not, this is what the writing process is like for me. A lot of the time I don't know whats going to happen until I'm writing it, the story being revealed to me like a movie in my head and I have to interpret what I'm seeing into words. Imagine watching a movie, having to take notes and then find a way of describing a certain expression from a character, or an action sequence, or a fight, or a kissing scene. It wouldn't be easy! And therein always lay the challenge for me; changing what I see playing out in my head into words on a page that will have an impact on the reader.

Often at the start of a scene or chapter I know what the characters are and what they're doing, but I can't stress how much I don't know whats going to happen until the scene is playing out, until the characters are doing their thing and driving the story forward. And you know what? Even I get surprised by things that happen sometimes and have a moment of "wow! I didn't see that coming!"

It seems totally nuts, right? In the back of my mind, I wonder if the day will ever come when I sit down to write and just get a whole heap of nothing. Like, my characters are half way through a pivotal conversation and then the connection will go dead, like someone yanking out the power cord on the TV. No more movies. Then what will I do? I suppose that might be a secret fear of all pantsers.

But, back to Alastor and Nakita. I might be three quarters of the way through their story, but I don't know how it's going to end. I don't know how their situation is going to resolve itself. But I know it will. They always do. And as for the series arcing idea of the war between the angels and demons? I have no idea how that's going to play out either. Characters are revealing themselves all the time. Some are good, some are quite obviously evil, and some are those shady characters you never quite know about, they could go either way. Things are starting to stack up in a way I'd never guessed about when I started writing Sanctuary. Eventually there's going to be an end-of-the-universe type battle, but I don't know when or how it's going to come about. In a lot of ways, it's fairly disconcerting!

So readers can ask me all they want what's going to happen and whose book I'm going to write next, but unfortunately I'm as much in the dark as the rest of you.

And I don't know where I'm going.

Sanctuary available now from Noble Romance Publishing

To win a copy of Sanctuary (the very last copy I have to give away!) leave a comment below. And because I'm (lazy) such a nice person, I won't even make you answer a question.

Good luck everyone!


  1. Jess, I can so identify with your writing style - the ghost of an idea sums it up brilliantly. But having said that I'm finding my style has evolved over time. I've found I've gone from a true panster, to being a scener and by halfway through the book, a semi-plotter.

    It's like I've discovered the characters, their world, their fears and strengths etc. in the first part of the book and with them clearly in my head I can see bits and pieces of their story, enough to have a stepping stone guide to the end (not a highway with regulated pit-stops as a plotter would have).

    I love hearing how other writers work. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hey there Kylie!
    I'm glad to find a fellow pantser, or semi-pantser as the case may be for you! And yes, I also like hearing how other writers work, which is why I thought I'd share this peice.

  3. Hi Jess,

    Just finished reading the excerpt on your website, and love the storyline. Plus you've got one totally gorgeous cover. What you do works, and Sanctuary sounds like a story I would love to read more of.

    caity_mack at yahoo dot com

  4. Hi Jess, I'm the same as you - I'm a pantser, flimmer, whatever you like to call it. I too have those moments when the characters say - hey, I think I would do this. LOL. It keeps life interesting. I compare my first drafts in comparison's to plotter's plots. Once I have it, I can work on the fine details. :)

  5. Hi Cathy,
    I'm glad you enjoyed the excerpt! I'm planning on getting one for Severance, the second book, up as soon as I can - probably in the coming week.
    Another pantser, Eleni! I think there's more of us about than we realize, though for some reason they don't like to come straight out and say that's what they do. Maybe because it makes us sound kind of crazy, LOL!

  6. Hi Jess :)
    I'm a pantser too.
    I was nodding throughout your post.
    All the best,

  7. Hi RK, thanks for leaving a comment. And I know only pantser will understand this post, the plotters are probably shaking their heads in horror!

  8. Hey Jess,

    I think pansters have to be either super intelligent or super crazy ^_^! I barely have a mind to sit down and read a book, much less try to write one without an idea how it ends. Okay, i lean towards super intelligent....hey just because my only 2 brain cells fight each other constantly doesn't mean everyone elses does!! do you see why i am not a writer...only a reader!

    But i really envy that you can sit down and write a book without planning it. I am greatful that you are sucessful at it

  9. Congrats again on the release, Jess, and loads of luck with the pantsing...I do belive I'd drive myself nuts if I tried to write without at least a rudimentary map. ;-)

  10. LOL, practimom, I'll let you think I'm super intelligent... in reality I think its the alternative though ;)

  11. Kari,
    speaking of maps, I'm also one of those people that, if I get lost, I don't usually chesk the map, I just insist that if I drive around randomly for long enough I'll work out where I'm going. !!

  12. Hi Jess, I totally "get" the pantser way of writing. It's fun to let the story unfold instead of using strict guidelines that don't allow the characters to breathe and become real! Sanctuary is a stunning achievement--keep writing in any manner that you choose.

  13. Hi Jess,
    Your style of writing sounds interesting and the stories sound great. I always found for exams at school that I couldn't go in with a story or character in mind as I didn't know what the stimulus would be, but otherwise my writing style varies depending on what mood I am in when I sit down and decide to write.

  14. Hi Jess,

    Thanks for sharing your writing process. I love it when the ideas just flow makes writing such an exciting experience. Nothing like creating your own world.
    Cheers, Margaret Midwood

  15. I always like hearing about fellow 'pantsers'. I write the first draft as such but then in the editing process is where I plot and plan and actually have a map of where the story is going. Always good to see how other writers work!

  16. Congrats to Cherie De Sues as the winner of the Sanctuary prize :)