Catchy title right? *waggles eyebrows* Well nothing lurid or inappropriate in here except for maybe some misplaced commas and misspelled words. *GASP!* (Hey I’m a WRITER first okay? I edit later, usually multiple times…)
I wanted to talk about my experience thus far about the process of writing as a profession rather than a hobby. I’ve been a Pantser for as long as I can remember. Which is to say, I jump in both feet first, whole hog, sprinting before I can walk, no rules, no game plan–just me and the Thing in front of me. “Look before you leap” has never been on the top 100 list of “advice I should take”. Writing, naturally, is the same. I’ve written stories most of my life but always for amusement and wish-fulfillment. I mean, who wouldn’t want the man of their dreams waking them up with breakfast in the morning on a tray with flowers and the words “Don’t worry babe, I’ll do the dishes,” taking your breath away? *Le sigh* And who doesn’t want their most despised enemy getting a taste of their own medicine through viciously scribbled and witty dialogue from yours truly? I DO I DO!!
OH what fun! With pantsing, the story could continue forever, winding its way through desires and whims and emotion and it may make me feel good writing such nice things. But it sure as hell is boring for someone else to read, which is what my goal is. So as I re-read some of my old stories, secretly promising myself no one would ever read such drivel, I realize I’m missing something. A looooooooot of somethings. Turns out, there are RULES to writing and being successful. (Key words: BEING SUCCESSFUL. Keep writing those wish-fulfillment scenes. We can do something more with them later 😉 )
After realizing that I couldn’t just have a great idea and swell grammar to publish novels, I turned myself into Jess-Alice and followed the white rabbit blogs down the dark and confusing hole of STRUCTURE. Ack! PLOTS. SUBPLOTS. Eek! CONFLICTS. EMOTIONAL ARCS. SCENES. OMG get it away! CHAPTERS. WORD COUNTS. Whaaaaaaaaaat??! Wait, hold on, put on the damn brakes! Now I feel like Jess-Alice swamping herself in her own tears of frustration. Life raft! Someone! Anyone? Pantsing is so much easier… *sob* Where to start? Where ot look? What goes first? Where does it end!?
It never ends. Because anything that’s worth doing has to be done right. After all, if writing best sellers were easy, everyone would do it and be successful, right?–says the Kernel of Stubborn Regard in my stomach.
Wooooorrrkkk….bleehhhhhhhh…… *turns into Zombie*
I did turn into a zombie for a while after diving into this mess of Rules. My poor diseased brain couldn’t take it all in. I tried reading the books and the blogs and the hundreds of pages of advice from published authors. I wrote down plot structure devices over and over again in notebooks and I have oodles of reminders on sticky notes peppering my work space (which is to say, my entire home). Index cards. I even have those! I’m color-coded and have the scene list taped up on my wall above my bed! I have fold out project boards and print outs with messy handwriting and a finger in twenty different blog pies, soaking up the awesomeness that is supposed to be writing. I can do this!
Yeah no. On top of being a pantser, I forgot to tell you I’m very much a disorganized mess. Nothing about me is logical or makes any sense. My dearest and bestest friend Owen once described my thought process as ‘a tempest on the ocean, guided by whim.’ For once the truth doesn’t hurt because I love every bit of it! It’s one of my favorite analogies about myself to date, other than being called Pinkie Pie (also true. I even have the curly pony tail). People have tried to encourage me to have a routine, to “get on top” of things so my life would be easier. *blinks in confusion* Who ever said my life was HARD? I ENJOY being an emotional, instinctual creature, which is why–HELLO!–Pantsing is so easy and fun for me. Rules are no fun! It takes the creativity out of things!
….said every single Panster out there, at some point or another. Yep. I feel ya. But hey, Pantsers! What if I told you that the Rules forced you to be MORE CREATIVE? \O/ Nooo Waaaaaayyyy Jess!! Seriously?! YES! But wait, why the sudden change of heart? What caused the 180 flip? Did you drink the dark side Kool-aide? Now now, just wait a minute. I’ll tell you. Lean closer…..CLOSER…*puts arm around your quivering shoulders* lemme tell you…..
SNOWFLAKE METHOD developed by Randy Ingermanson.
WHOOOMP there it is! The secret to my 180! It is both the easiest and hardest thing I’ve ever read.
Now I do completely understand and appreciate that this might not work for everybody. That’s okay. Find your own way! I will cheer for you and hold a candle in the window for those dark stormy nights of indecision and confusion! But this blog is about me so I’m going to tell you how I handled this stunning new development to my writing. If you don’t mind.
By the time I stumbled on this method, I had already gotten the basics down for structural writing and what not. Practice makes perf–well, makes me more knowledgeable. (But eventually I WILL finish that sentence proudly as a published author!) I was struggling with a novel I had developed during 2015 NaNoWriMo (really fabulous place to get started writing a novel or continue one you need help with). The plot was eh and I could see that from the post-it notes and index cards covering my walls it was a flopper. Great main characters, okay but underdeveloped villain, interesting setting…why wouldn’t this just GO TOGETHER dang it!? Well, because I was doing it wrong. Or at least not right. Duh…
So lets wipe everything away. *WHOOSH–makes hand wiping gestures* Forget the details of your story for a minute. Step 1 of the snowflake method is to sum up your story in 15 words or less. No names. This is a 15 word pitch that you’ll sell your book off of so make it interesting and intriguing. Try it….
It’s harder that you thought huh? THIS is what I was talking about when I said you have to be MORE creative when rules are applied. You have to strain your brain to fit a massive 80K novel into 15 words. Holy cow Batman! I enjoyed the challenge very much and was so proud of what I came up with I almost bust my own buttons:
“An orphan girl is challenged to stop History from tearing apart at the seams.”
Yeaaaaahhh you wanna read more of that story right? Eh? Eh? You will. Maybe not soon, but you will. And look! Step one is done! Go you! Go me! Of course, I understand I started working the Snowflake Method with an existing story in mind. I know it’ll be infinitely harder starting out with a blank slate but I think I’ll enjoy the challenge just as much. I advanced through every step with new curiosity as I watched my story stiffen up, change, mold into something worthy of reading. And to be honest, it’s still changing the more I push through working with the Flake Method. Changing for the better I hope.
Caution: While change is good, have a limit. When it’s good enough, STAWP. I’ve been working on a story for 16 years because I can’t cement it in. And I still haven’t even applied the Flake Method to it yet. Yeah, say it with me “oi vey!”
Well. I’m not going to go through every step of the Flake Method with you cuz damn that would be a long post and Randy sums it up so very well if you click on the link. I did want to reinforce the idea, however, though that Rules are challenging and will test you far more than any Pantsing will ever do for you. At least for us beginners. I dunno about the pros. Don’t they just poop out platinum best sellers? Pantsing has its place. It gets all those wonderful ideas right out on paper right away and you should do it! Don’t let any idea escape you. I carry around a notebook for this reason. Nothing is a bad idea. Just look at “Springtime for Hilter” from the movie “The Producers”. Who woulda thought, huh? ANYTHING can be a good idea. So write it, then refine it. Pants it AND Flake it. Ain’t no write or wrong way. Get it? WRITE or wrong….
Alright. Stopping. Bad puns mean I should be done. Hey a rhyme! 😀
Go be you, friend Panster/Flaker and write, right, rite!
Kay. Seriously done now ^^ Take care, as always.