Monday, April 11, 2016

Why Am I A Pantser? Blame It On My Kids by Margo Hoornstra

My first born was due on this day. Not this actual day, day here and now. On April 11th a few—okay, more than a few—years ago. He was born the middle of March. Maybe the early arrival wasn’t totally his fault. Freshly released from the United States Army (my husband’s service, not mine) we hopped on a plane to bring us home to Michigan from Arizona. I was huge at the time, even needed an extender seat belt, but they let me fly. My water broke about six hours after we landed.

A new baby and no jobs, no home of our own, certainly no well stocked nursery to bring him home to. Nada. Zilch. Nothing. All of our worldly possessions were on a semi-truck somewhere in transit. No preparation allowed for this baby’s arrival—at all. We stayed with my parents for about a month. Ultimately found jobs and a place to live.

The twins were due the end of January. They arrived the week before Christmas. Another preparation prospect down the tubes. Although we were admittedly more established by this time with a home of our own, steady jobs, income and the like, if not for an ultra-sound ordered two weeks before, I’d have continued to expect one baby instead of two.

My Christmas shopping wasn’t finished either. Never was that year.

Only my second child, a girl, kept it pretty close to term. Even went over by a few days, if memory serves. She’s the only child who allowed me to plan. The others forced me to figuratively think on the fly. To make sure I provided for their needs no matter what I had going on at the moment.

It’s sort of the same with the characters we create and the situations we put them in. As writers, it’s our job to attend to their immediate needs. Get them out of one sticky situation and into another. Because that’s basically how we pantsers operate.

The pantser process worked for me in the two books I wrote for the Dearly Beloved series of The Wild Rose Press.

The idea for Night Stars and Mourning Doves—a second chance romance—came to me when my husband fell out of a tree he was trimming and accidentally took a Mourning Dove’s nest down with him. No babies yet, thank goodness, and she eventually rebuilt.



My first book contracted on spec, Only If You Dare, was supposed to be a courtroom tale of big business versus the little guy. Except, that’s not exactly what I wrote. The final product did turn out to center around a courtroom, but with no little guys in sight. The story was about a multi-decorated war veteran, now a judge, who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress and the woman counselor who helps him reclaim his life.


If not for three of those four little darlings coming into my life willy-nilly like they did, I very easily could have turned out to be a straight and linear plotter.
How about you? What's your writing style and why?

My days to blog here are the 11th and 23rd.

I can also be found at:




Jannine Gallant said...

Funny about your kids, Margo. Tara was 10 days early. She's still extremely impatient. Kristen was 9 days late. Had to induce labor since apparently she wasn't ever planning to come out... I still have to prod her (forcefully) to get her moving. So maybe their personalities were already established at birth! As for my writing, I began my career as a plotter and turned into a panster, so I worked in reverse order from my kids. Fun post! Oh, if you don't hear from me anytime soon, my email server is down and they have no estimate as to when it'll be fixed. Grrrr...

Rolynn Anderson said...

Pantsers unite. Funny about my writing style. I was a high school teacher and principal, careful at planning lessons, speeches, evaluations of teachers...on and on. Maybe I'm a pantser as a writer because I wanted to be free of that gnats eyebrow planning. Heck, I taught expository writing, critical analysis, pounding away at my students the concept of using their brains to be clear thinkers. Sure, they/we used creative ways to present ideas, but the analytical thinking was vital...primary resources, too. You get the drift.

Writing fiction is a world apart from all the above. I had to start over and learn...loosen up, too. So it makes sense I'm a pantser today. I am surprised every morning when I that, I like!

Margo Hoornstra said...

Jannine - Oh no to the server down! Funny how kids who have the same parents can turn out so very, very different. Unfortunately, I remember induced labor too. Except it was to deliver the second twin. Come to think of it, both my girls were the hesitant ones. Hmmmmm.

Rolynn - My mother was an English teacher and my dad was a writer. Talk about two ends of the spectrum! Thank goodness you are finally free to be a tried and true pantser. Every time you write is a surprise, isn't it? I love it!

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I am a pantser who is leaning toward listing bullet points about halfway through the books so I don't freak about where the story is heading...if anywhere. Even so, my characters threw me for a loop over the weekend. Suddenly, just a few hours after a wonderful proposal, my heroine throws a fit. I'm yelling at the screen. "No! No, I didn't plan for this. You can't. You just can't. You know he'll walk out if you say this." Well, she said it...I wrote it...he walked out...and I was left holding the shocked author's bag.

Loved your post about "birthing babies." What a great tie-in. Back to the writing cave. I want to finish this bad boy today.

Anonymous said...

Margo, as a fellow pantser I empathize with you--and had a similar experience with my own baby, too. Maybe that's why I'm a pantser? She was due Jan. 12th and managed to arrive, in the U.K., on Boxing Day with hospital staff still off and away partying and granny and grandpa visiting for the Xmas holidays. Yup, all good training in thinking on the fly...

Alicia Dean said...

I am most definitely a plotter. If I sit down to write with only an idea, I'm completely blank on how to proceed. I do not do extensive outlines or graphs or charts, but I do have to have a scene by scene plot, although things change as I go along. I like to have a list of short scene notes, then I dive into each scene and I'm still surprised and excited about what develops. I only have an idea of what will take place. Watching it play out still keeps me interested. :) And, as I said, things change. EACH of my 3 kids were late. My eldest two, the girls, were each 12 days late. My son was a week late, if I recall correctly. :) Maybe that's why I like a plan.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Vonnie, You never fail to entertain. Thanks for the chuckle. I'm sure you'll get those characters back in line. You always do. Good luck on the completion.

Andi, just when we think we have everything under control....not a lot you can do once the labor starts!

Ally, lucky you kid wise. Sometimes I wish I could be more of a plotter. Not in my DNA I guess.

Leah St. James said...

Wow, Margo, you sure learned quickly that a parent has to be able to react quickly to just about anything! My sons were opposites--one early, one late--so maybe that's why I'm a mixture of plotting and pantsing. I need a basic outline for the plot because my mind will go meandering, like the little boy on Family Circus, until I've wandered so far off plan, I'll never make my way to an ending! Fun post!

Margo Hoornstra said...

I did learn, Leah. At light speed! Sounds like you got a nice blend kid wise. Bing a pantser does have a downside. I tend to go far afield at times with my writing.

Diane Burton said...

Both my kids came pretty close to their due dates. Not my grandchildren. G'daughter #1 came 5 weeks early; G'daughter #2, 4 weeks; G'son, 6 weeks early & the only one who had to stay in the NICU. When Son worried about G'daughter #2 coming so early, his sister told him when kids are done cooking, they come. Must be from the Burton side. Hubs was 2 months early.

I'm a plotser--a hybrid pantser who has to eventually plot. Works for me.