07 September

Writer Evolution - Pantser to Plotter...

I can see the pantser rioters forming outside my house... pitchforks in hand, chanting, 


For a second, I thought to invite them all in for coffee...

Instead, I decided to write this post. Their chanting inspired me...

Here's the beef:

It's not HOW you write your book that counts, IF that process gets you,

a) writing consistently, and

b) doesn't get you in an editorial firestorm.

Before I begin, let me say that there is a very small group of writers who are experienced enough to craft an entire novel in their head before they hit the keys. They have had years crafting similar books or years experience in the literary field. Those novels are usually genre, plot recipe driven. A good example I've cited before is Ian Flemming with the Bond books. He'd suntan on his beach and work out the skeleton of the next book, then head inside and plunk it all down in one go.

Those rare breeds are NOT who I'm talking about here. Who I'm referencing are the inexperienced pantsers who don't have a clue about what they're writing. They literally just start plunking out a stream of consciousness that has by definition no structure to it.

Their excitement for this daredevil approach might satisfy "a" above, but will usually trap them in "b," in a mess of plot black holes or corners they can't extract the characters from, and characters whose dialogue and actions maybe superficial, cliché or improbable.

So, although they are a typing storm, it's "b" that'll get them into a world of hurt after the pantsering fun has ended, and a real story must emerge from that frenzied approach.

IF YOU are experiencing "a" and/or "b" issues, you need to evolve as a writer.

You need to become a sponge, and assume by default there are better ways to write than you presently know, and are using now. Writing, like any profession, takes skill, and that skill you are not born with, you amass over time, often heeding the words of mentors who have come before you, and know the best route to book-writing success.

In my experience, new book writers are the most close-minded, the most stubborn, the most unwilling to change, when it's that segment who should be the most open to new ideas, especially if their ideas aren't cutting the mustard.

Having said all that, I am NOT telling you to know every inch of your tale before you write. What you need is to know the major scenes and the character actions/motivations within those scenes — the general points to get your writer mind VISUALIZING the unfolding tale, so your fingers will type out a draft that you CAN work with, you CAN flesh out and refine, versus a hornet's nest of plot/character black holes that'll get you pulling out your hair and dropping that draft, never having it come to finished book fruition, which when it comes to pantsers is, sadly, the norm rather than the exception.

I once had a colleague who refused to listen to/consider new process ideas. That person would literally put their hand up in the air as a visual stop-gap to say there was no way they would adopt any other way but their own - a full fledge pantser. 

That same colleague ended up editing their draft for YEARS.They so over-edited it that it eventually read as sawdust. They had effectively edited away all the passion out of the tale.

Instead of ending up in that mess, consider YOUR process...

Is it working? Are you writing consistently on your draft? Is it going down on the page, making sense? Is the plot line logical? Are the character's words/actions genuine to their personality/story arc?

If not, it's time to become a sponge, willingly adopt new ideas, and evolve into the productive wordsmith you so eagerly seek.

To improve as an artist, acceptance of CONSTANT EVOLUTION is a must. You must accept that the ideas, beliefs you started out with will never be the best, for beginning beliefs in any new endeavor are never the best. You need to be willing to change, modify, and refine your process, or drop your process altogether if a) no words get down on the page, and/or b) no cohesive tale is resulting.

The day you put your own hand up in protest to new ideas offered by mentors is the day you're doomed as an artist. You and me, both.

As I've mentioned before, we are all on the same literary ladder; some below us, some above. The ones above have experienced more, failed more, succeeded more. Their wisdom can guide the lower rungs to better, faster succession up that ladder, so LISTEN to them, HEED their words of advice, and be willing to change.

If you come away from my blog with only ONE adopted action...


Soak in every ounce of advice, information, warning signs to which you are exposed, and ask yourself, 

"How can I reverse engineer that kernel of wisdom to see how it can work for me?"

"How can I examine its success rate with other renowned authors?"

"How can I adapt it to my process?"

Do not become a fervent pantser for the sake of tribal loyalty. That to evolve into a competent plotter will somehow steal the joy. What will actually happen when you adopt a more competent process is your story will unfold into a quality draft that can be edited in weeks, not years, taking that tale from a manuscript to a real book, a real gift to the world to enjoy or to learn from, instead of a red pen mess stuffed in the back of your drawer. And isn't producing a real book where the writer joy truly lies???

HOMEWORK: Tonight, look at your draft. Ask yourself, when was the last time I wrote on it? Is the storyline making sense? Are the characters vibrant, wholesome, genuine people? When you ROL — Read Out Loud — the draft, are you stumbling over the words? If any of your answers shine a negative light on your draft, then it's time to drop your beliefs for something that will work. 

Consider becoming a plotter, as in my previous post, Book Outlines, Scene Cards an Option... adopt a scene card approach to your tale, and start a NEW draft with those cards. You don't have to delete your old draft, but if you begin again with those cards in mind, you will write faster, better, and I guarantee you, you'll realize that old draft is no longer needed. You've written a better tale the second time around.

A hiker can't get from A to Z without a map, and neither can the productive book writer in you.

Open your mind, and evolve, to create great art. That's the only way great art is ever done!

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