Friday, August 21, 2015

Are you a Planner or a Pantser?

Do you plan or pants your writing? The end. Not really. I ask this question because I'm insane and need to know if my insanity is shared by others. We could hold hands if only they would let us out of our straight jackets.

I have used both methods and I kinda like using what I consider to be a hybrid approach. So is it an iron or a fairway wood? I dunno... It's golf and will make me fall asleep rather than finishing this blog post, so let's only talk about it in whispers and zzzzz..... 

My approach gives me the structure and scheduling power I need to complete the story and guide it in the direction of my initial idea. It also gives me the flexibility to completely ignore everything and make up whatever kind of craziness I have brewing in my head. I know what each character's motivation is and what their ultimate goal is. I can feel free to let the characters do what they would normally do. They are real people after all. In my head. Why are you looking at me like that? Shut up! Sorry about that. I had to put one of the voices in my head in it's place.

So how do I do that writing voodoo? Well, I first come up with an idea or pull one out of my notebook of book ideas. The characters magically pop up in my head asking for rice krispy treats. I think about what I want to do with the story and what needs to happen to get from point A to point B. Those make up the main turning points in the story. I further break those down into smaller steps until I have enough chapters to fill out the length of story I want to tell. I write a 1 or 2 line description of what that chapter is supposed to be about.

Then the process of writing begins. *cracks knuckles* Time to pull out my big boy writing tools and put the plastic ones away. I am a good boy who doesn't want anyone to step on them by accident at 2 AM. When I begin I know the starting point of each chapter and the beginning of the next. It becomes a matter of connecting the dots, but I don't have to use straight lines! I treat each chapter as a piece of flash fiction or a short story of sorts. With this outline I can make a schedule and deadlines. I'm trying to get better with this as I still have to work a day job and this is my first novel. There are also several other unanticipated delays that come with being a first time author.

I pants the crap out of these chapters. The characters spill out on the page and frolic in the world. Sometimes they take me in strange and wonderful directions. Sometimes they try to jump off a cliff. I let them. Sometimes they tape teddy bears to their body and use them instead of clothing. I find that my job is to give my characters the motivation to make their way to the starting point of the next chapter. If you know your characters well enough then you can eventually get them there. It might take a few chapters worth of writing to do it. That is how my 25 chapter outline for Virtual Wars balloons into 41 chapters. Those are red balloons filled with whipped cream of course.

So which do you prefer? Planning or pantsing? No pantsing with no plan? Naked and afraid typing on a laptop while drinking wine and cry-laughing?

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