Editing Tips for Pantsers

So you’re the most unorganized writer in the history of writers.

Hello brothers and sisters. Welcome to my world. Let me share your pain and offer some editing tips for pantsers.

You may have recognized by now that you don’t realize how unorganized you truly are until it comes to editing.

Yes! You have written your story. You have joyfully typed “The end” at the bottom of the manuscript, and you scrolled back to the top to go over everything you’ve written. Then you see it: at some point in your writing process, on page 3, you added an entire paragraph explaining your character’s personality quirk because on page 147 you introduced that quirk in the first place, and you can’t do that! New ideas can’t be introduced in the middle of a story, right? But on page 203 you have a single sentence that doesn’t make any sense with the explaining paragraph on page 3. So you go back and you fix the paragraph to make sense with the sentence on page 203. And then, you continue reading through. Page 17 also references the same quirk. You vaguely remember going back to add that sentence during your writing process, but it doesn’t make sense with what you just fixed on page 3!

By now, you’re wondering what else you might have added that you don’t remember, and you’ve pulled out your dark chocolate

Editing Tips for Pantsers
The mind of a pantser.

or your whiskey to find your zen before continuing.

Yes, this is a common struggle for writers. For pantsers, to be specific.

A pantser is someone who, “flies by the seat of their pants,” meaning they don’t plan out anything, or plan very little. – The Write Practice

Why bother pantsing then? Well, ain’t that the golden question of the day!

No one chooses to be a pantser. It just comes naturally. For those of us who are not naturally organized people, outlining and planning seems very daunting and overwhelming. So we roll with the punches and see what happens.

Luckily, there are three great editing tips for pantsers that you can use to help, before you get to the editing portion of your writing routine.

  1. As you write, keep notes. When you realize you need an extra explanation for something that happens later in the book, jot that change and the page number on a sheet of paper or a separate Word file.
  2. As you edit, create a “style guide” for yourself. I personally learned this tip from my wonderful editor at Proof Positive. A style guide is where you jot down all bits of important information. The color of your characters’ eyes and hair. Specific spellings and uses of words–including things like leaped vs leapt. Write down any character specifics whether their personality related or physical descriptions. This will help you immensely as you continue your editing.
  3. Write your synopsis before writing your book. Even if you don’t stick to the synopsis as you write, you at least have some guidelines to keep you writing in the right direction instead of ending up on some tangent chapter you’ll decide to remove later. Yes, this happens. You get excited about a concept surrounding your character and you write a whole chapter to make a light shine on that concept. And then you realize it doesn’t match or flow with anything else in the book so you toss it with an ugly cry and a glass of scotch.
The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws

Yes, these tips are forms of organizing your thoughts, but it accompanies your pantsing or immediately follows your pantsing, so you’re not throwing off your groove as you go. That’s the big deal here–you don’t have to give up being a pantser to write “correctly;” you just need to find a different place for some method of organization to grow and keep you in line.

I hope these editing tips for pantsers help in some way, shape or form. Do you have any specific editing tips for pantsers that can help your editing process go smoothly? Please share!


Don’t forget to check out these sources for writers.

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