Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Notes from a reformed pantser…sort of.

From Google (thewritepractice.com/plotters-pantsers):   A pantser is someone who, “flies by the seat of their pants,” meaning they don't plan out anything, or plan very little. Some people, like me, call themselves “plantsers,” which means they're in a little of both. In reality, most people are plantsers, but some tend to lean heavily to one side.

From the Urban dictionary online:  Pantser: A NaNoWriMo term that means that you 'fly by the seat of your pants' when you are writing your novel. You have nothing but the absolute basics planned out for your novel. This outlook towards writing is often opposed by the 'planner', who knows exactly what is going to happen, when it will happen, and where it will happen. There is often enmity between the two types of writers.

From www.nownovel.com/blog/plotter-even-youre-pantserPlotters tend to plan out the story in extensive outlines before they even begin the writing process.

I often get asked what I am as a writer. Am I a pantser or a plotter when it comes to writing my stories? My biggest answer thus far has been I am a pantser, plain and simple, BUT with one caveat, I do know where my story will end. I’ve always held to the notion that I am 90% pantser and 10% plotter, with the 10% being a simple map of where I am going to end up at.

As an author, I love listening to the characters and where they want to go with the story. I’ve heard other writers say this is much like “channeling” for lack of a better definition. The story and the characters lead you organically how they want things to happen with a little planning on your part. Other characters will “show up” when they are needed.

A good example of this was with my first novel Elemental Awakening. I knew the gist and ending of the story, but as I began to write, a main character, Raze, showed up without any planning on my part. He had a definite “voice” and a fully developed idea of who he was. It shocked me when he casually wandered onto the page. He ended up being the main driving force behind what was happening to the main character.

My story planning evolved a little on my fourth book when I decided I’d like to plan the “character” arcs of those in Torn, The Shilund Saga, book 2. I sat down with index cards and wrote each character’s name on it and what was going to happen to each of them. Then I sat down and began the journey with them. Still, the characters told the story and I simply listened.

I liked the index cards so much, I went with the idea on a bigger scale and bought presentation "post it notes" paper with smaller sizes and stuck the large sheet on my wall. I put the list of the characters on it and then used smaller post it’s to put the main character arcs and plot points down on the paper. This guided the entire process on my fifth book, The Dawning of Scarlett.

My crazy wall

Another thing I did that helped my writing immensely, is I purchased “Scrivener” to help me keep my notes and character’s organized and even transposed some of what was on my board into Scrivener to assist with writing when I wasn’t at home and couldn’t just turn my eyes to look at the major plot points.

Now, I’ve started Redemption, book 3 of The Shilund Saga and I thought I’d try the “snowflake method” of outlining. I had my goal word count, coupled with my character arcs and set about to outline the entire book. I was actually surprised at how much I was able to put down and surpassed my 50 chapter goal and outlined through 69. It felt epic. So I’m starting the writing and we shall see how it goes. I wasn’t so stringent in my outlining that I haven’t allowed for characters to decide to “pop” in like Raze did. But I at least have more of a detailed road map of the story. This is a first for me.

I sat down with my writing group over the weekend and was discussing this very issue and was told by one of my writing friends they are a “hard core” outliner. I was fascinated. So I asked what they do when the story organically wants to go in another direction. They told me they then go back and adjust their outline to account for the change of direction. Ah, so not as hardcore as they thought. They agreed that sometimes an outline changes when a character wants to go another way.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I agree with the notion that thewritingpractice.com posted with their definitions that most writers are “plantsers” and tend to like one way more than another, ie more of the pantser way or the plotter way.

I’ll let you know how this goes.  I might be converted to lean more towards the plotting way of a plantser.

Happy writing!!

Good additional reading:

If you want to know more about Scrivener

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

What? Me? A full time writer? Yep.

I am now a full time writer.  Woohoo!!  I have been working towards this goal for three years and now I sit, computer at hand, ready to conquer the world of Young Adult/New Adult fiction. 


Okay granted, it’s pretty early on. But still.  I feel a little frenetic and lost in figuring out how to approach this.  What’s that you say?  I simply need to write?  Well, not so fast. 

Even though I’m an adult, I am still learning the lesson about other people’s lives and way they approach things is not necessarily how I have to.  Sounds like a pretty easy thing to get, but I have to keep relearning it every day.

Initially coming into this full time writing gig, I was thinking I’d have this set schedule of half day of writing and half day of editing just like one of my favorite authors.  Day one was my first attempt at it, but I have to admit I felt like an abject failure.  I found I’d write for an hour and then need to focus somewhere else for a moment to give my brain a break.   Then I’d want to chide myself for not remaining steadfastly focused.

On day two I decided to try again and about midway through I flung off my self imposed expectations and just do what felt right.  The writing felt easier and cleaner and quiet honestly, I felt as if I could breathe.    I listened to where my thoughts wanted to go.  If I was going along and I wanted to say stop for a second and check my phone, I did.  I know that sounds silly that I had to give myself permission to do that, but I living under a demand to simply write and not allow anything in there that wasn’t…well…writing.   

Admittedly I have a touch of OCD. If I think too hard and long on something I need to shift to something else to allow for a break.  Maybe I’m normal that way, maybe I’m not, but this shifting didn’t fit into my mold of what it is to be a full time writer.  The author whose scheduled I had initially crafted my own from is incredibly focused and has been doing this full time for many years.  It is a rhythm that works for her.  She may have developed that schedule after many trials and errors, but the bottom line is that it’s hers.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be mine.

It’s funny, but I find that my ridged expectation of my writing schedule was exactly the opposite of what I eventually did when I decided to quit to write full time.  I had felt a call to write full time, but I had some authors who openly chided me and told me that I should wait until I was moderately successful, because that is how they did it. If I didn’t do it their way I would be surely to fail.  That really scared the ever-living crap out of me.  Another writer told me that they only way they succeeded was they simply quit their traditional job and wrote, wrote, wrote until they were successful.  I was in a war zone between the “don’t do it” to the “throw caution to the wind” parties.   Eventually I had to decide to do what was right for me and no one else.  I had to quit listening to both camps and be who I am. 

Therefore, that is what I am going to do from here on in with my approach to my time.  I’m going to do my schedule in a way that feels right to me and only me.  For those of you who email me and ask how you should do it, I’m sorry, I can’t tell you that.  Eventually you will find your own approach because there is no right or wrong way. 

Wish me luck, throw a penny into a well for me or say a prayer.  I think I’m going to need it.