Jill Weatherholt

Writing Stories of Love, Faith and Happy Endings While Enjoying the Journey

Confessions of a Panster


I’m happiest when I sit down with my laptop, turn on my iPod and write.  I love not knowing beforehand what I’ll write or what kind of trouble my characters might get themselves into. Often I’ll listen to the words in a song and go from there.  In the writing world, this is referred to as a panster.  Before I was bit by the writing bug, if someone were to ask me what a panster was, I would probably respond with, “A person who sews or hems pants, like a seamstress.”

Of course, this type of debauching behavior is completely opposite from my punctilious and obsessive list making personality.  I like order.  I like things done a certain way some might call me a perfectionist.  One would think I would embrace outlining with open arms, but so far, I don’t get warm and fuzzy when I think of outlining a story.

I associate my previous attempts to outline with high school algebra tests from many years past.  I thought I knew the material, but when the test was placed in front of me, I froze.  This is what happens when I sit down to attempt an outline.  My mind drifts into summer vacation mode and suddenly writing isn’t fun.

Unfortunately, exhibiting panster behavior during my last participation in NaNoWriMo didn’t work out in my best interest.  The first week was great.  My iPod was jamming and I was excited. I was developing my characters as I went along making them do whatever I wanted them to do.  Then it happened.  By the middle of week two, I hit a monstrous roadblock.  This is not a good thing when you’re under pressure to write 1666 words a day just to keep your head above water.

All of a sudden, I felt like Hansel and Gretel.  I was lost in the woods and I had no idea where to go.  As a result, I wandered.  I filled the pages with useless dialogue and weak scenes that didn’t advance my plot.  I worked my way through the roadblock and completed the challenge, but not without a few migraine headaches and a great deal of wasted time.

This year, with NaNoWriMo just around the corner, I have decided to try a different approach.  I plan to embrace my anal-retentive tendencies and outline my story.  I realize I’m starting a little late to have a thorough outline.  Many participants have been outlining for months, but that’s ok because NaNoWriMo isn’t about following the rules of writing.  It’s about getting the words on the page.


Author: Jill Weatherholt

My name is Jill Weatherholt and I’m a writer. I have a full-time job, but at night and on the weekend, I pursue my passion, writing. I write modern stories about love, friendship and forgiveness. I started this blog as a way to share my journey toward publication and to create a community for other new writers. Raised in the Washington, DC area, I’ve lived in Charlotte, North Carolina since 2004. I hold a degree in Psychology from George Mason University and a Certification in Paralegal Studies from Duke University. My first book, SECOND CHANCE ROMANCE, published by Harlequin Love Inspired released on February 21, 2017 and is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. I was the first place winner in the Dream Quest One Short Story Contest in the Winter 2014-2015 competition. In 2014, I placed second in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest. I was also a top ten finalist in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest in 2012 and 2013. I’m a 2010 and 2012 winner of the NaNoWriMo Contest. I love to connect readers, visit me at jillweatherholt.com

6 thoughts on “Confessions of a Panster

  1. I just started outlining the new idea yesterday, so don’t fret not having weeks or months of planning in the bag. An outline can act like a road map, offering direction. Or it can be a bullet-point-filled to-do list; it’s all what you as a writer requires. This idea is more open to interpretation, which has given my spirit a huge lift! So, while I know the meat of the tale, plenty sits vague, but tempting me to figure it out. And unlike many of my plots, I’m still not sure how it will end! 🙂

    The soup, btw, was amazing! I love my crock pot!


    • I appreciate your input on outlining, Anna. It’s all so foreign to me. I’m glad your soup was “amazing”! I love my crock pot as well, I couldn’t live without it. 🙂


      • For me, outlining is different for every project. Sometimes a pantser approach is required, sometimes not. But if nothing else, you have a framework, which can be jostled around as the writing takes shape.

        Crock pots rock! 🙂 (And that sort of rhymes…)


      • I can certainly see how the outline would be different for each project. I’m anxious to see if the outline makes NaNo a little more easy than “winging it” like I did in the past. I met the goal, but it got really rough there at times.
        The great thing about crock pots, at least for me, I can make chili, soup or whatever and each time it tastes different ~ but always good!


  2. I certainly hope it isn’t too late to be outlining for NaNoWriMo, as I’ve yet to start too! I reckon that a few weeks’ outlining is enough to see how working that way sits with you. Then if you think you need more for the next project, you can do so!


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