August 28, 2017

Looking Back on My Beginning

Those of you who weren't around back then might not know that the very first thing I published was a collection of poetry. Fitting, since the very first thing I ever had published was a poem in a national young poets anthology. 

For a while now, I haven't done much with that collection, though it's continued to be available online. (I also have a few print copies available.) Occasionally, I go back and read some of the pieces included, most written over a decade ago. Sometimes they make me cringe; but sometimes they make me feel. More likely it depends on my own mood at the time. I certainly appreciate the positive reviews readers left back when the collection first came out!

For some reason, today (the day I wrote this post, anyway) was one of those days when I was drawn to reread the collection. I also decided to drop the price to $0.99. Maybe some of the pieces will speak to some of you—in which case I hope you'll let me know! 💕 

Here's one of the pieces from this collection that's closest to my heart:

August 1, 2017

Hazards of Outlining for a Pantser

August 1st, 2017. Can you believe it? (Really, can you?) I can't. But rather than dwell on that disturbing reality, I wanted to talk about outlines.

Plotters—people who like to plan (often every detail of) their stories before beginning to write—swear by things like outlines. They frequently advise everyone to figure out what the story will look like, chapter by chapter or even scene by scene, to make sure that the story hits the plot arc when necessary, that it comes together into a cohesive and hopefully compelling story. They swear by this method, because it saves time in revisions, keeps the writer focused when writing, and allows the drafting process to be so much faster! 

For them. 

As a pantser—the type of writer who prefers to sit down to a blank page and see where the story goes—outlines can often end up to be tremendous wastes of time. And let's not forget, all that time plotters "save" on writing, they're probably using on outlining. And because that works for them, letting them focus on the drafting with everything already figured out, that's great! 

But lately I keep seeing people really pushing every writer to outline. And some newer writers, even ones who know they're pantsers, end up pressured—or even bullied—into doing it, having been assured it's the way "real" writers do it. 

Well, there are reasons pantsers don't. Something I was reminded of quite recently. 

Stuck on a plane, I was actually reading a book—hard to believe, I know. Except this book's core premise was ticking me off a bit, and as much as I tried to keep going, every mention of this one aspect to the female MC irked me. So I had the idea of doing the opposite. How could I make it happen, and make it believable?

Over the rest of the flight, I wrote out a brief outline of what that story could look like, who these two MCs would be and how they could believably connect with each other while dealing with this "BIG ISSUE." I ended up writing over 2,000 words. 

So why is this a problem?

For one thing, pantsers who do try planning often find all that time and effort wasted once they (ahem, we) try to write. While I don't tend to outline, I've certainly jotted down notes with plans for later scenes in a WIP. Invariably, those ideas never come to fruition because that's just not how the story comes out. When it came to Bobby's story, trying to stick to the plan I mentally started with resulted in a huge block until I finally threw out that whole preconceived notion of how the story should go and got back to just writing.

For another, and I'm speaking for myself here but probably for some other pantsers as well: we get bored. Once I know how the story goes, how the characters meet, what their conflict is, and how that conflict ends up resolved—if I've already figured out all of those scene-by-scene details—I just don't have that much interest left in writing that story. 

So now I have those 2000 words and an outline. A part of me still hopes I'll end up quickly drafting out a full story someday (once I'm done with the current novella of course). But chances are greater that story, those characters, will never see the light of day. Maybe if I hadn't been on a plane, typing notes on an iPad (so uncomfortable), things would have been different.

Because for pantsers, figuring out all those pieces and getting them to fit together, seeing the story unfold from our words... Well, that's half the fun.