Or “Don’t Ask Me, I Just Make This Up As I Go!”
I am a die-hard pantser. John McClain. Yippee-Ki-Yay. Yeah, that kind of Die Hard. *grins* I’m not the Hans Gruber type with the well laid-out plan. I’m the grab a fire hose and jump off a building type.
There is a long-running discussion about how people write, but generally your fiction writers get lumped into two groups: those who plot out their book ahead of time, directing the movements of their characters with military precision. And those who don’t. The first group is called plotters, the second pantsers.
*grins* Lisa hates the term, so she uses “fog-walker,” which I think works just as well. However, I’m not averse to the term pantser because I’ll freely admit a lot of what I do here is by the seat of my pants. I like to pretend I know what’s going on, but more often than not I’m surprised by the crap my characters get themselves into. I also use the term organic writing, not in the least for the amusing fertilizer connotations.
Here’s the deal. I get an idea for a book. It’s usually out of the blue as I’m walking down the street, in the shower,
napping meditating on the couch. And it’s usually so insanely crazy that I run into things or accidentally inhale water, or fall on the floor. There is a resulting mad scramble for paper and pen (Not hard to find in our house, believe me!), or voice recording, or computer, or cell phone.
I have scribbled things at stoplights, made passengers write things down, even pulled cars over while driving so I could capture an idea.
I know, I’m crazy. *waves hands* The voices in my head say that’s okay.
That first chunk of whatever gets sent off to my critique partners. And by CPs, I mean those invaluable, incalculable ladies who freak out with me or email me back with a gentle: “That’s lovely, Katy. But it’s all backstory and not the place to start a book.”
Which is fine, because I am admittedly a little OCD about backstory. Though that’s a post for another time. Let’s see, what was I talking about? Oh right! Pantser.
Now, if you’re a pantser, you have to be willing to do a couple of things. You have to be willing to dump large amounts of text because the storyline you thought was going to work suddenly dead-ended on you. You have to be able to think about several aspects of your plot at once so you can weave as you go. And you have to be cool with writing more than one draft of a novel. Because pantsing does require a lot of clean-up at times.
So, confession time! I’m not really a full-fledged pantser. I don’t know that anyone is. Normally for me I get about halfway through a novel and think: “where in the hell is this going?” 😀 I print out a hard copy and do a read-through. Along the way I gather up threads that were left unattended, (like the plot point on page four that was never addressed again) so I can weave them back into the story. I move things around, (like the climatic battle scene that somehow showed up on page 170 when it really should be at the end of the book) because in my excitement I tend to just brain-dump everything.
Then I take all those notes and I sit down to make some kind of outline for the remainder of the book. Sure it often looks like this: stuff happens, hero/heroine runs for his or her life, BOOM, happy ending (or not). But it’s an outline, I swear. I have a big whiteboard that I use, along with the practice of tagging what I call a “running outline” at the bottom of the manuscript I’m working on. That’s really just a slightly more detailed list of things that changes a lot depending on what shenanigans my characters get up to.
I have very lovely (and did I mention awesome?) critique partners who are willing to go through this process with me. *laughs* Not to mention a few beta readers who catch things like a plot point that was ignored or a scene with a complete lack of a purpose. These folks keep me on track, and I’m a firm believer that if you’re going to be a pantser, you really need to get yourself a group of people who are going to help keep you on track.
So what’s your process? You got a plan, or are you just making this up as you go along?