Today I am honored and excited to host my friend and fellow writer Mr. Skaggs. I'm pleased to let him ramble on my blog a little bit as his ramblings are usually so much more fun (and better constructed) than mine. I'll let him take it away.
P.S. There was a thing with a cake that incited a marriage proposal from me. I'm serious about my cake you guys.
A little about him and a link to follow his blog!
A little about him and a link to follow his blog!
Confessions of a Converted Pantser: The Joys and Pitfalls of Discovery
Good evening. You don’t know me, or at least most of you don’t know me, but Monica said you were a kind and loving lot and that I should feel free to speak from the heart. So here we go.
I am a writer. I have the affliction that causes me to spend as much of my waking day as I possibly can crafting new worlds, people who never existed, and situations that may or may not be more screwed up than this place that most call “the real world.” There is but one cure for this ailment, to write.
I attempt to do so every day. To go a day without writing is to invite demons to roam my brain unchecked. This is never a good idea for any length of time. For me or the demons.
I have learned, as I sought to improve my craft, that there are two distinct avenues that writers and authors (those who share this same cursed blessing) take to exorcise their demons onto the page.
The first is the plotter, or planner. They build an outline. Carefully craft the framework of the ritual exorcism and allow, or rather force, the demons along this path. They live in a mystical world of outlines, spreadsheets, beats, and other devices with which their story is planned.
This, I will admit, is a concept that is completely foreign to me. I fall squarely in the second camp. That of the pantser. Aside from being something that sounds like you need to register with local law enforcement, at its core, the pantser is one who writes- figuratively (and sometimes quite literally) by the seat of their pants.
I have heard this method recently called ‘Discovery Writing.’ Admittedly it sounds less perverse than telling unsuspecting conversants and blog readers that I am a panther.
So, Todd, you seem like a decent fellow. What’s this bit about being a converted pantser?
Hey-thanks! I’m glad you asked! I
It hit me the other morning as I was exiting the shower. That cold blast of air when the A/C kicks on and the breeze hits the still wet area behind the knee that just chills the whole body. AND along with the goosebumps came an epiphany.
You see, prior to exiting the shower, I was fully engaged in the act of showering and the story arc for one of my works in progress was starting to play out in my head. As a discovery writer, I refer to this as the movie in my head. When I write most pieces, I don’t actually feel like I’m writing. With the fictional works, it’s as though I am watching a movie in my head and doing my best to transcribe the movie I’m seeing in my head with the words that find their way to the page. Sometimes it works out quite well. Others--not so much.
This particular movie in my head was quickly drifting to the second category.
I had a huge problem. I had MASSIVE ideas for two of my three main characters. Plot twists, misdirection, the works. It was a glorious thought, thinking how the reader would find themselves as twisted and conflicted reading these guys as I was whilst writing them.
As though the projectionist had forgotten to cue up the next reel, I saw a movie one second, and the next, a blank screen.
I knew what things I wanted me and thee to see on this journey, but I didn’t yet know where we were going dear reader. I had landmarks and points of interested, but no destination in mind.
In addition to finding out exactly how long I could stay in the shower until the hot water went cold (26 minutes), I had an epiphany and a moment of terror.
I had no ending. I had no idea why the characters were doing what they were doing.
I was pantsing wildly. As I toweled myself off, I bowed my head in defeat.
I needed a plan. Some kind of map to the finish line that not only had a pad, but actually mentioned a little bit just what that particular finish line might look like.
The need of the plan wasn’t so much the epiphany as this. There is no such thing as an either/or kind of writer. The best plotters and planners have moments where they look back on the page and aren’t sure how the words got there. Discovery within the framework.
And the best discovery writers sometimes need to plan things out, even if it’s only minimally or else they risk wearing a hole in the seat of their pantsy pants pants.
That’s the crux of it, then, isn’t it?
Stop putting yourself in a box of this type of writer or that.
When someone is reading your work they won’t much care about the journey YOU took getting the words on the page. No, my friends and fellow writers, they will be more concerned with the journey that those words are taking THEM on.
So, write. If you need a plan, make one. If you have a movie in your head-watch it, describe it, let others live it.