Tag Archives: Seat-of-your-pants Writing

12.19: Structure on the Fly

Your Hosts: Brandon, Mary, Dan, and Howard

This episode is for you discovery writers, especially those of you for whom our current season of structure seems to be locking you down, or pointing up methods which you just don’t like to use. We talk about how these methods, these structural principles, these mechanical advantages in the mental toolbox can be applied during the discovery writing process.


Credits: this episode was recorded in Cosmere House Studios by Dan Dan the Audioman Thompson, and mastered on the north face of a dormant volcano by Alex Jackson



Write a story in an hour and a half without outlining it. Pick a character, an object, and a genre. The character has problem with the object. Use a timer, and use the yes-but/no-and method as you go.

Hardcore History (podcast), with Dan Carlin (note: this podcast has a rolling paywall. The sooner you subscribe, the more you’ll have access to when you get around to listening.)

Writing Excuses 8.35: Digging Yourself Out of Holes with Jeph Jacques

At the time this podcast airs, Jeph Jacques’ Permanence project on Kickstarter has just nine days left. Jeph joined us at GenCon Indy to talk discovery writing with Brandon, Mary, and Howard, and yes, we totally agreed to plug his rock-and-roll side-gig in exchange.

Jeph Jacques is best known for Questionable Content, and by way of disclosure, Brandon has been a QC fan for years. He’s a discovery writer, and he has written himself into more than one corner. We ask him how far ahead he works, how he develops an idea, and especially how he fixes things if his discovery writing has taken him someplace he needs to get back out of.

His first step is to admit that he is, in fact, stuck in a corner. One of his tricks is a tool any of you can use in any project, Oblique Strategies, in which a random phrase (drawn from a deck of cards, or generated for you on the web) challenges you to rethink the spot that your story is in.

Obviously there’s more to it than that, but this? This is not where you’ll find the transcript. Transcripts end up here.


Go back to whatever you wrote most recently and come up with a different solution for the scene, changing the emotional beat of the scene.

The Player of Games, by Iain M. Banks, narrated by Peter Kenny

Writing Excuses 7.37: Pantsing

Pantsing! What are we even talking about?

We’re talking about discovery writing, but apparently some folks think it’s more fun to call it “seat-of-your-pants” writing. In this cast we cover this exhilarating process, and how it might best be applied.

Mary uses the “yes-but, no-and” trick. Dan starts with an end in mind, and then ignores it in order to write today’s chapter. Brandon, despite being a fairly rigid outliner, often finds himself discovery writing when under odd sorts of pressures. Howard likens discovery writing to improvisational music.

Fundamentally, seat-of-your-pants writing is like seat-of-your-pants anything else: the more practice you have within that discipline, the more of the techniques you’ve mastered, the more likely you are to succeed in the endeavor.


Cheerful ruffians, civilized louts, yes-but, no-and, ready, set, go.

Existence, by David Brin, narrated by Kevin T. Collins, Robin Miles, and L. J. Ganser.