Wake UP and Smell the.....

Writers are strange creatures. They make stuff up in their heads. Then they write it down. Then, if everyone is really lucky, they share their creations with others. How can anything go so sadly awry with that?

Becaaaassse. We're all different. We mix methods and proceedures together differently from each other and there is no way to know in advance of actually writing and completing a body of work to know how our individual mind will function in the creative process of writing.

For example let us take those pansters and plotters. Pansters are supposed to fly by the seat of their pants which is supposed to mean that each day brings new material to their heads and therefor their fingers. Yeah right. In reality, their minds have been very busy thinking this way and that. They have tacked the big problems, and some of the minor, by allowing their subconscious brain to figure out the plot and characters for them. I have yet to hear of a panster who did not have any idea whether their characters and story were going to be an adventure or a contemporary story before they began writing it. There is a little bit of structure in mind before the fingers hit the keys. A panster might not know how a story will unfold, but they usually begin with at least one character, a place or situation for that character to be in, and an idea of where the character will end up whether physically or mentally.

Those of us who are plotters are amazing creatures of planning. Plotters decide in advance who does what in who's alley, when, and why. They string together pearls of moments for their characters to complete. One new writer that I sometimes talk to discovered last week that writing 3x5 cards with plot points on them and then playing with them to create order has suddenly let her writing ability soar. She's written over a hundred pages in four days. More than she's ever completed before. The only thing slowing her down is having to work for a living. This breakthrough is after more than ten years of writing. She carries the cards to organize her life and the transfer of her ideas of her story into a pile of cards added to what she keeps on her was an epiphany.

How long does it take a writer to complete a project? Some writers can complete a novel-sized project in a few weeks. Other writers complete one only after decades of work on it. Some writers take course after course attempting to memorize enough grammar and structure from various instructors to be able to express themselves fluidly. The frustration of attempting to take an amorphous idea, notion, or emotion and explain it in the words of the author's language, which is regularly too imprecise for satisfaction, often causes author hair loss and vague growling sounds to be uttered.

How, then, do we figure out how our individual writing processes work if the art of writing is not consistent? Because it is consistent. If you interview enough writers a body of commonality forms in a smorgasbord of writer traits. The most important trick of all as a beginning writer is to stay true to your own story. Do not let others who are confident in their opinions to overly sway your work. Trust your writer's gut. It is a sensitive organ and will let you know if a piece of advice or methodology rings true for you. Do not scoff at other writer's notions or paths. Their own individual expression in the story world cannot ever be yours. It may be similar. It may be very dissimilar. Writing is much like learning to run. First you have to figure out how to crawl, toddle, walk, and then run. Yes, we fall down and cause ourselves to bruise, but not to move at all means a large part of a potential writer's world is missing.

I once read that a story must have so much dialogue. I put dialogue in. I then had to go back and pull it all out as it was wrong for the characters and the story. I should have stayed true to myself and expressed what happened in my own way. Then the story would have flowed and all would have been right in my world. However, without the attempt, how would I have ever figured it out? There is no one who can teach a writer to write expressing his own talent. It cannot be done as a writing talent is too individualized in its expression.

What do we do? We wake up and smell the morning beverage. That's what we do. We plug along with baby steps, asking for advice, trying out different methods, write our stories, and as we gain experience and understanding we can begin to fly.

Are you awake? Then join WARA so that you have all the help you can ask for on the writer's path.


Reese Mobley said...

I am a pantser. I hate it, but I am. If my brain allows it, I maybe can plot the next chapter or two and I have a vague idea of the ending, but that's it. I'm not sure if it's because I write humor or not.

When I grow up, I want to be a plotter. It makes it so much easier to write the book. Good post, as always.

Rox Delaney said...

I'm a plotter, but I was once a panster who never wanted to be a plotter. I was forced to learn to plot. Looking back, it was a good thing...most of the time. There are still times I wish I could just sit down and write without fear of not knowing where I'm going with my story.

About that friend with the 3X5 cards, it's one of many devices that plotters use. I admit to having one of the most convoluted ways of plotting, but it works for me. It doesn't matter how one does it. The outcome is the same.

P.S. I know of a nifty way to use 3X5s for plotting.

Penny Rader said...

You are so very wise, Nina. I just love reading your posts.

I lean more toward being a plotter 'cause I need to know what I'm heading toward. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean actual plot ideas will pop into my head.

Rox...please, please, please share your nifty way to use cards to plot. (Yes...I guess I'm still looking for the magic secret and hoping elves will plot the darned thing for me so I can just write it.)

Rox Delaney said...

Penny and anyone else interested...

Kathie DeNosky created the scene cards based on Jack Bickham's method in Scene and Structure. The cards have been added to her website for those who want to use the idea. And it's okay to change the method to suit your individuality.


She passed them on to me, long ago, and I used them for a while. I still do when I hit a bump. :)

Nina Sipes said...

I am in awe of anyone who can write in any way. I find the human brain so fascinating it its variety to accomplish what is essentially the same thing--tell a story. That stories themselves are so simple to complex in their layering--very much more interesting than a mere painting can ever be--to me. So whether it is magic pixies or their dust or their footprints across pages of plotting or if being strung up in manacles whilst dangled over pits of ravenous alligators is what it takes to write a story for some--I don't care--I'm ever-so-glad someone takes up the task.

Joan Vincent said...

I am a combination of pantser and plotter. When I first started writing I would outline, re-outline when my characters made a left turn in chapter 5 and then re-outline again when they took a right turn in chapter 8. These days I outline the book and then just write. It never goes like that first outline but I've learned to live with it. It's as you say--follow your gut. Write the way that works!