Friday, May 12, 2017

Of Plots and Plans and Things In Between...

Writing is the dragon that lives underneath my floorboards. The one I incessantly feed for fear it may turn and devour my ass. Writing is the friend who doesn't return my phone calls; the itch I'm unable to scratch; a dinner invitation from a cannibal; elevator music for a narcoleptic. Writing is the hope of lifting all boats by pissing in the ocean. Writing isn't something that makes me happy like a good cup of coffee. It's just something I do because not writing, as I've found, is so much worse.
― Quentin R. Bufogle

This was the inspirational writing quote I sent to my best bud Jamie today, and in the accompanying email I said something to the effect that after careful consideration I have to agree with it. Writing doesn’t always make me happy, but it makes me a lot happier than not writing does.

The daughter was away for a conference this week, which necessitated me having to babysit during the day while her hubby was at work. Monday I was a disorganized mess. But Tuesday I discovered that by planning ahead things went much more smoothly. I even managed to get some writing in during the toddler’s nap time. Wednesday was the same.

I used to get very frazzled whenever I was expecting company, until I learned my aunt’s secret. She planned everything ahead of time, and did as much of the prep work for meals before the company arrived as she could. It’s amazing what a little planning can do.

During my writing time while I was babysitting, I was trying to work on a story but I wasn’t sure where it was going. So I jotted down a few plot points of what I wanted to have happen. That’s not to say I plotted the whole thing out, just a really short plan of the action.

A couple of weeks ago I used mini index cards to jot down the remaining scenes in the novel I’m currently working on, and even a couple of scenes closer to the beginning that I’ll have to go back to so I can fit them in. As plans go it’s not much, but it got me eager to start working on it again.

All of this made me realize that maybe there’s something to planning ahead after all.

Once upon a time I wrote a blog post about pantsers versus plotters. It’s fairly simple. Pantsers write by the seat of their pants - they just sit down and write, having no clear of what’s going to happen until they write it. Plotters, on the other hand, plan everything out ahead of time so there are no surprises.

Back when I was new to writing, I thought everyone was a plotter. So I spent a lot of time on outlines and maps and character sketches and eventually realized that I was spending more time on them (and having more fun in the process) than I was actually writing. My novel kind of stalled and it was years before I got back to it. Actually, my writing stalled - it was a few years before I got back to any of my longer fiction.

The first novel I actually finished was written purely by the seat of my pants. I was goaded convinced by Jamie to try my hand at a blog serial. I let the story progress naturally and most of the time I had no idea what was going to happen next. It was an adventure, albeit sometimes a frustrating one.

I wrote several other novels after that (that book turned into a series, of which I’m about to start number five), all by the seat of my pants. It was decided. I was a confirmed pantser.

But then I began to struggle a bit. My second series, based on that first attempted novel, began to flounder until I discovered all the character sketches, maps, and notes I made originally. While the characters had evolved well past those initial sketches, the notes were invaluable, as were the maps. Using the notes, I created the “scene cards” I mentioned earlier, half-sized index cards with a few words describing a single scene on each one. This will take me to the end of book three.

Maybe planning out a novel isn’t such a bad thing after all. Especially when you’re writing a series. And recalling those story notes I made ... I used to get an idea for a short story and just wing it. But knowing what’s going to happen actually makes it a little easier to write. And notes help jog my not-so-reliable memory when it falters.

So... while I doubt I’ll ever be doing a long-winded, multi-page, detailed outline such as plotters are famous for, neither will I dismiss the idea of a little planning ahead. I guess you could say I’m taking the middle road. “Neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring.”

I’m not totally a plotter, but neither am I strictly speaking a pantser anymore. I’m somewhere in between. I ... am a tweener!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Prompt Me - Artificial Light

Whoops! I was so busy writing I almost forgot today was Friday and time for a new picture prompt!

I was writing not one, but two stories from last week's Brazen Snake Books prompt, which you can find every Monday on the Snake Bites blog. This one was all about keepsakes and I wrote a poem, then a dark little tale, then had an idea for a sweet romance, then a longer version of the dark tale. All from one prompt!

This month's picture prompt was given its title by the photographer. It was part of a photography challenge she had with a friend, and I quite like the mystery of it.



Who is this woman inside the lightbulb? Why is she in there? Is she a woman, or something else? What is that smoke in there with her?

Don't forget, your creativity can come in any form - fiction, poetry, non-fiction ...

I'd love to see what you come up with, so if you're feeling brave you can email it to me at carolrward(at)gmail(dot)com and if you like, I'll even post it here at the end of the month.

Happy Writing!