It’s one of the first questions writers ask each other upon meeting for the first time:
Are you a plotter…
…or a pantser
Are you a plotter…
…or a pantser
After all, a book is, well, a book. It is static and non-visual beyond the fact of seeing a print or e-book’s typewritten words.
To me, it made little sense trying to apply techniques used in visual arts (most notably motion pictures) to a format that most definitely isn’t a picture (this despite the fact that very good books can indeed succeed in creating vivid pictures in the reader’s mind).
That would be the subject of an entirely different, and if I chose to get all self-psychoanalytical about it, lengthy post.
Rather, it’s about what goes on in my mind whenever it’s not otherwise occupied, and, to me, is the furthest thing from negative.
Of course, there is factual truth to this statement: I literally learned and continued to read stories before I started writing them (although the timing for both is close; I clearly recall writing my first “novel” in grade two).
Even now as an adult, my almost-daily reading occurs earlier in the day (dinner time) than does my almost-daily writing (after dinner, the last thing before I go to sleep).
Maybe it’s because it’s the first advice many of us ever received. Certainly it seems like it should be beginner advice.
I can see it perfectly: a student of sixteen or seventeen hunched over his/her desk at school, pencil in hand poised above a sheet of three-hole-punched, lined loose leaf.
(Am I totally dating myself with this memory in longhand? Do high school students even write by hand in school anymore? The pencil in this vision isn’t even mechanical).
For some reason, I have a disproportionately large number of friends who are insomniacs.
I’m not talking people who occasionally suffer bouts of sleeplessness like we all sometimes do. Rather, I mean folk who chronically don’t sleep more than a few of hours, every night of their lives.
That must really suck.
The notion of insomnia really came to the fore of my mind due to my recent trip to Australia. From my connection at Los Angeles airport to Melbourne, Australia, the flight was about 15 hours long.
Hold on a sec. That’s not what this post is about. This post is a point-counterpoint between two WordPress bloggers arguing the merits of two distinct writing methods, pantsing (freeform writing) and plotting (writing from an outline).
Read on as right-brained, right-coast writer Eric John Baker argues in favor of pantsing (at least we hope that’s what happens… he is making it up as he goes, after all), followed by left-brained, left-coast writer Janna G. Noelle making a case for plotting, probably with all kinds of charts and graphs and stuff.
No matter how ugly and violent it gets, they promise to return you home in time for tea and biscuits!
I’m not really sure why this is, for I’m sure as hell no actor. I have no poker face whatsoever, let alone the ability to re-create a given emotion at will, and body movements range from woodenly awkward to determinedly abrupt.
As well, the mechanics and semiotics of acting are largely lost upon me. I can’t really distinguish a “good” performance from a “spectacular” one, and when I watch movies or plays, so long as the story obeys its own internal logic and follows a satisfying story arc, that’s good enough for me.
I’m a writer; I’m far less interested in the performance of a story than I am in the creation of that’s story’s script.
And yet, as different as my actor friends and their art seems to be from me and mine, I’ve come to discover the usefulness one particular actor’s tool can have for writers.
That tool is improvisation.
I’ve twice had it happen where writing has taken over my life, the first time being back in 2004 when I was writing my first (incomplete, shelved) novel, and the second in 2005 when I wrote the first volume of my two-volume historical fiction WIP.
In 2005 especially, I fully gave myself over to my writing.
A/N: To my fellow Canadians, wishing you all a very Happy Canada Day!
This is something I’ve been pondering quite a bit lately as I continue to move forward in my novel-in-progress: this question of how it is that my writing actually comes to fruition.
Especially given that the ideas I come up with tend to rather small, vague, and decidedly non-earth-shattering in their physical and psychological impact upon me.
Case in point – the idea for this very blog post: I should blog about how my writing ideas evolve.
That was it: the brilliant brainwave in all its unexplained, undeveloped glory.
Or the idea I have for the next chapter in my novel-in-progress: I need to show the protagonist and her enemy starting to see eye-to-eye. Okay – there’s a little more to it than that, but not much. Heaven forbid the Muse offer me something with which I could hit the ground running.
My ideas are like – to borrow from the liberetto of Les Misérables – a little fall of rain: sufficient to get your attention when it speckles the side of your face, but not substantial enough to convince you that anything more will come of it.
For all you know, maybe you were standing too close to a conversation and just got spat on.