When You Don’t Know Where the Story’s Going


by Teagan Berry

It’s happened again. I’m pantsing a new writing project.

Now, in case there are some of you out there that don’t know what pantsing is, let me give you a quick sum-up. Pantsing is a style of writing where the author doesn’t have any real sort of plan of the story when they start to work on it. Basically, it’s when you’re literally flying by the seat of your pants, hence the name.

The opposite writing style is plotting, which is fairly self explanatory, I think. If you want to know more about these polarizing writing styles, I wrote an article a while back on the matter. You can find it here.

So as I was saying, I’ve begun to work on a new project, and like a similar issue I’ve had before, I don’t know much about it other than a couple of characters and a few scenes. What is different that last time? Well, this time I know what’s going to happen in my story leading up to when the male and female leads finally meet. As a sidenote (which the context is important, I think), my characters don’t actually meet until well into the plot of the story. There’s a lot of character development and plot which showcases their lives separately. Let’s just say I have a feeling this piece is going to be a long one.

Since I’ve been there before, I have a few tips I think may help first-time pantsers who are all probably crapping themselves at the scary and murky plot which awaits.

  1. When you think of something, jot it down. I’m serious. Literally anything that can pertain to your story. A character, a plot, a conflict. Just write it down. You never will know when you might be able to use it.
  2. Use timed sprints to jolt your creativity into action. I find that writing for fifteen or twenty minutes without any interruptions really helps, especially when you don’t have anything particular planned out. Doing this allows for your characters to speak out for themselves and since you’re writing without distraction, you can find that you stumble on a new plot point.
  3. To go with the previous point (though this is a tip I suggest for all writers in general), don’t edit as you write. Just write the draft. You can come back to it later. There’ll always be time for editing. The flow of the actual writing, now that’s harder to keep going.
  4. When you do find you get stuck, try thinking of something else. Think of what you already know about your characters or the plot you’re working with. Draw from that. Maybe there’s a small scene you know you want to work on. Do it. The point is to just keep the writing flow going. Just write something.

As for myself, I still have many questions involving my story that are nagging at me. The mystery lies in what will happen after my characters first meet. How will they react to one another? What will their first impressions be? I know there’s going to be some sort of romantic relationship between them eventually, but how will that transpire? Who will make the first move? Will they stay together or will their chemistry flame out?

Thankfully I’ve been here before, so I know what to expect. And I hope that for all you first-time pansters out there, you’ve found a little bit of comfort or serenity in the suggestions I’ve made here.

If anyone out there can think of any other tips or suggestions for pantsers, please comment below. I’d greatly appreciate it. And as always, keep writing everyone.

Until next time.




Guest post contributed by Teagan Berry. Teagan writes books, watches sports, and reads. She started her blog initially to beat writer’s block, but it’s turned into so much more. 

20 thoughts on “When You Don’t Know Where the Story’s Going

  1. I outline novels and short stories – though still, those moments of a new idea or new character pop up, or more likely, the plan doesn’t go accordingly and my main character isn’t who I envisioned or the ending goes off-course; which, not all that terrible if it’s worth the work – but I do tend to write flash fiction with only the idea, and when I do it’s freeing. Those times help with the more difficult, time-consuming projects. Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pantsing can get crazy. Once I went an entire novel trying to figure out who my character’s father was so I could introduce him in the sequel; a few days after I finished the first novel, I realized that the father had been in the first novel all along. I plot-twisted myself. Whoops.
    Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Haha, no. 1, definitely. Although I do plot now, I note down things on my phone all the time. The annoying thing is that the best ideas come to me right before I go to sleep or while I’m trying to sleep, which often means grabbing my phone in the dark and jotting it down quickly. Maybe besides writing sprints, another tip would be writing crawls and prompts, something I’ve learned from NaNoWriMo.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I am a plotter — discovered it the hard way when trying to pants through a NANOWRIMO challenge. Your advice feels on target for so many of us writers — the idea of sprints, of jotting down any and all ideas, and the others works for me!


  5. What you call “pantsing” is referred to in other places as free writing. I find that there are days when the plan you have previously laid out seems to get in the way of where your mind wants to go. Sometimes it is necessary to abandon the plan, albeit temporarily.


  6. I find that #2 works pretty well, if you pair it with a strict word limit (I do love drabbles). Otherwise the fifteen minutes tends to stretch itself out!
    The word limit also helps create a sense of achievement, you feel rewarded when you close your document and are eager to come back to it again later.


  7. Omg, this is me!! I’m writing my first book, I keep trying to make my characters “authentic” and end up over thinking and then just stuck. Ugh!!


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