How I Pants-Draft my Stories

I can’t remember if I’ve discussed pantsing vs. plotting here, but I’m gong to touch on it today. I wanted to discuss a little about how I draft stories because I’m working on a first draft right now and drafting has been on my mind. 

The first thing I do is look for inspiration and ideas. Sometimes that’s in the form of writing prompts I find online. Sometimes I have a character in mind first. Sometimes, it’s a song or lyric that just begs to be tuned into a story. I’ve admitted here before that coming up with ideas is not my strong suit. I can do a lot with a prompt, but I don’t often get struck by an origin without some sort of help. I find ideas much easier to come by when I’m working on flash fiction, but when I’m working on a bigger piece, I often take inspiration where I can get it. 

Once I have the idea in mind, I decide how old my characters are and search for character names. The social security name registry is extremely helpful for this. I tend to latch on to a name and accidentally reuse it, so to ensure that in using a new name, I’ve started keeping a running list of names that have been used up. Sometime during this process, character appearance comes to me. It’s also no secret that I love hipsters, so you’ll likely find one or reference to them in a story  (easter eggs!). Physical description and personality fall in line here. They all sort of happen at once. 

Once that happens, I have two choices. I can write on paper or type. If I type, I have to come up with a file name for Scrivener, my writing software. I usually go this route becaude my ideas flow much easier on a keyboard. I can type faster than I can write. Besides, this makes revisions easier. The story I’m working on now is being handwritten, for no reason other than portability. I can’t take my laptop everywhere, but a small notebook is portable and discreet. I can write on my lunch break. 

From there, all I have to do is write. I typically pants a story – fly by the seat of my pants. I know the ending, and I have some general idea of what’s going to happen, but I don’t often plot out my story. I find that the ideas flow much better this way. Another day, I’ll discuss my plotting method, when I do plot. 

Once the draft is written, I usually let it simmer for a while – a few days, maybe even a few weeks. A second draft comes by editing my own work. I make several passes, and I stop counting drafts at that point. I’ve lost my beta reader (Pet was my faithful beta, but since we’ve broken up, he doesn’t read for me anymore, understandably), so I don’t often send my work to anyone to read before I email it to my editor at MLR. Once it’s in her hands, it’s in her hands to decide what happens to it. And the rest is history, as it were. Several more rounds of editing follow, of course, but editing is a topic for another day. 

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