Caught With My Pantser Down – The Search For Paladin Po~~by Mark Huntley-James

Note to self – write about the perils of being a pantser.

Fortunately, I only wrote that a few weeks back, so I remember what it means. It further sticks in my mind because I was complaining to my partner about my troubles with the noteless Paladin Po, one of those cases where I’m trying to pick up the pieces of a part-finished book months, or even years later, and the note makes no sense, or there is no note at all.

(The original title for this was Take Note, but that lacked something in the click-bait stakes**.)

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Plotters walk away now because otherwise you will be trying to read this whilst shaking your head in disbelief, but for the pantsers out there, take note, take lots of notes, and make them sensible notes that will still mean something in twelve months time.

Let me present Paladin Po, a minor character introduced and dispatched in the space of a chapter, with the personal charm of a yeast infection and created to make a point later in the book. Po is one of the backroom boys in a nasty little slave trade, never really hands-on, but still unlovable, and perhaps in need of a redeeming feature or two exposed in a future chapter. Really, the only problem with Po now is that I wrote him somewhere around 2016, then the book went on hold and I have no idea what he is for. That point I was going to make later in the book is now completely lost.

I searched the whole file, the back-ups, anything that looked like it might contain explanatory notes, and found nothing. When I wrote Po, I knew what he was for and I was in the pantser flow, but four years, three urban fantasies and one space-opera later, I’ve forgotten the details. If only I had written some notes, recorded that point to be made, then maybe now I would have some idea what he was all about.

Poor Paladin Po – unless I can reconstruct the details, he will be erased from the narrative, which is fitting since his business is linked to erasing people. I shall leave him in for the moment in the hope of remembering.

Just writing a note is not enough. As I was reconstructing my thoughts on Po from a sketchy one-line note, I did a little tidying of all of my notes. After a health hiccough last year, I have finally caught up with the modern world and now have a smartphone. Since that upgrade, my note-taking has improved with Google Keep, with the bonus that I can access my notes from every device. The corollary is a surplus of notes, many of them redundant, like last month’s shopping list or the size of screw I need for a job that’s now complete. So, I did some tidying, reading and deleting until…

Sidekick — punchline should be needed a better plan and silent drive.

I stared at that. What does it mean? Random notes with an entire text of “20cm” are pretty clearly a measurement I needed recorded for a few hours at most, but obviously deliberate gibberish is different. Do I delete or keep? I should certainly make a note about not making cryptic notes. Purely by chance and not long after, I tried to save this account of my hunt for Paladin Po in the wrong directory and there was a document called “Sidekick” from just over a month back, and I was sure I had seen something about sidekicks recently.

I tracked it down, re-read, and in that context the note made sense, more or less. I just had to put in all the missing punctuation, missing words, and sort out the unfortunate consequences of the auto-correct on my phone.

Calling all pantsers – I know the story just happens, evolving as we write, but please, take note, write a note or two, and put enough context in those notes so they still make sense next year.

Happy writing.

**elsewhere, I’ve written a diatribe on Five Great Ways to Roast Live Clickbait. ()


OMP Admin Note:  Mark Huntley-James writes science fiction and fantasy on a small farm in Cornwall, where he lives with his partner and a menagerie of cats, poultry and sheep.

He has two urban fantasy novels out on Kindle – “Hell Of A Deal” (http://relinks.me/B01N94VXBC ) and “The Road To Hell” (relinks.me/B07BJLKFSS  ) – and is working on a third.

He can be found online at his blog http://writeedge.blogspot.co.uk, his website (https://sites.google.com/site/markhuntleyjames/), and occasionally on that new-fangled social media.


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4 thoughts on “Caught With My Pantser Down – The Search For Paladin Po~~by Mark Huntley-James

  1. I’m a pantser always but recently I have discovered the joy of Review on Word. Now I put a comment connected to the chapter heading with my plan for that chapter. It allows me to pant with a plan!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As a dedicated short story writer, ‘pantsing’ is the way to go. Forgetting what the story is about rally helps with the editing.

    Like

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