IWSG: Remove Your Pants!

The first Wednesday of every month is

Insecure Writers Support Group

. A fabulous blog-hop. Head to the list and support some other writers today.

This is going to seem like a weird thing to talk about in February but bear with me…. Do you know why I love NaNoWriMo?

It’s because, back before 2009, I couldn’t finish a draft. Or even come close to it. Then my fantastically talented friend


said,”Hey this thing? We’re doing it!” It wasn’t even November–I think it was March. But we read

No Plot, No Problem

, made a whole bunch of horrible videos on writing that no one thought was funny except for us and then wrote some damn novels. And it was rad.

NaNoWriMo gave me one of the most valuable tools a writers needs (in my humble blah blah blah). It taught me the value of a deadline. It cannot be overstated that just sitting down with the vague notion of

write something

, is a recipe for avoidance. You check Facebook. You snap a selfie, annoy your cat with a paper bag and  then take a Buzzfeed quiz to find out which Friends character you’d be.


And after all of that, you’d open your writing software or notebook and write… nothing. Absolutely nothing.

So once I had a deadline, I wrote. I wrote a lot. And it was THE WORST writing. But that was okay, because I got better. And since 2009 I’ve written three full manuscripts. But I haven’t successfully edited any of them. I fell into the same patterns with editing that I did with writing. I’d sit at my desk with the vague intent to “edit.” This often became an exercise in futility as I rewrote and rewrote, hoping the problems with plot and pacing would fix themselves.

I’d somehow missed the most important thing NaNoWriMo waved in front of my snoot… the knowledge that a deadline is nothing but a goal and it’s goal-setting that matters most if you want to achieve a dream.

I feel a little dense that it’s taken me so long to realize this. If I want a writing career, I can’t pants it. I just can’t. Now I know, you can probably name someone who is doing it. Some famous person who doesn’t take notes or make outlines and if they exist, GREAT. But I think once you get to editing, being a pantser is like putting on a blindfold while walking backward and sideways at the same time. Yeah, you might get somewhere but it’s more likely you’ll just fall on your ass.

I think this is the point in the process where pantsers just throw their hands up and shout “Fuck it!” They have the story. They wrote it and liked it. But now they don’t know how to make it better. So vague promises to edit turn into guilt and self-doubt and then you set fire to the manuscript and start a new one.The bird toy endlessly drinking… never satiated.

 So I’ve set a deadline for my editing and a goal. First goal was an outline. I outlined the story as it was. Then I wrote a rough synopsis of how I wanted the story to flow with better character arcs and a stronger secondary plot.  Then I re outlined it, scene by scene on color-coded sticky notes. Coral for scenes I’ve written from my hero’s POV, blue for my heroine’s. Neon yellow for scenes I haven’t written yet.

writing lobster

and I set a deadline of March 31st, for me to do a complete big-picture edit and for her to finish her current novel. So we set word count and edited-page goals, and we printed calendars that we could put stickers on to mark our progress. When one of us hits so many stickers, the other buys that person a small gift.

We are plotter-ing it up over here and we’re both making progress.

I guess what I’m saying is pants the crap out of your story if that’s what you want to do. But if you’re struggling, whether in the writing or the editing, it’s time to set some goals. Make some deadlines. Be a plotter. Because it’s really effing hard to work when you are vague about what you want to achieve.

Plot on!


The answer of course is… I’m what would happen if Chandler and Monica fell into a puddle of nuclear waste and melted into one neurotic, funny, perfectionist mess.

My Lisa Frank stickers bring all the words to the yard…

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. C.D. Gallant-King

    Wow. We've had the exact same experience in our writing lives, about pantsing and learning about deadlines and even outlining after you draft.

    Except for the colour-coding shit. I can't pull that off.

  2. Lidy Wilks

    Goal setting, that's the key. I'm happy for the progress you made in your writing. I'm a combination of both plotter and pantser myself.

  3. Tamara Narayan

    I pants-ed my first book and it was such a mess to clean up. Plotting works better for me, but I still fritter away too much time on CNN and gmail before I get down to business.

  4. Christina Mitchell

    Yeah, it didn't solve everything, but plotting is the best way to actually get work done.

  5. Christina Mitchell

    Outlining after the first draft is amazing if you're a pantser. You need it.

    I love the color-coding shit! I thought I had a lot more to write with this edit but by color-coding it I can see that it's not anywhere near as awful as I thought it would be.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing my pain 🙂

  6. Christina Mitchell

    It really is.

    I believe they call that being a plotser. That's sort of where I am these days.

  7. Stephanie Faris

    I wonder how many people have started writing because of NaNo when they wouldn't have otherwise?

  8. Jeannie Miernik

    You make plotting look adorable! OMG the sticky note/cute people chart with star lights! I'm about to go plot… like… three books now. It's looking more fun than writing to me right now.

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