Saturday, October 27, 2012

Confessions of a Deranged Writer

Photo courtesy of irkengirdib
Okay, admit it. I'm not the only writer that title suits. he he

For those of you who know me, you can admit how weird and more than a little crazy I tend to be. It's okay. I've often thought the same thing myself ABOUT myself.

For those of you who don't know me, hang around. Get to know me. I'm sure you'll soon agree with those who've known me for years.

As I tell people - "My brain is a scary place to live." ;-)

Which brings us to - confession time.

Confession #1 - I am a "pantser". Some prefer to call writers such as myself "intuitive" or "organic" because they aren't too keen on the "pantser" title. Call it whatever you will, I don't particularly care. None of the titles bother me in the least. For me, the title is one of those "A rose by any other name" situations. The title doesn't change how I work. I write by the seat of my pants, totally on the fly and with very little preparation beforehand.

I have no use for outlining prior to starting a project. I find the very act stifling to my creativity. I know "plotters" thrive on having a properly developed and fleshed out outline (though how developed and fleshed out seems to vary greatly from one writer to the next). More power to them, and I'll cheer for them and offer encouragement as they work on their outlines. It just ain't for me. I'd rather have a root canal than try to write that way again, and I'm only being partially facetious. Yeah, I hated it that bad.

As far as a synopsis? Yep. Familiar with those. That's the summary you write AFTER the book is written. (I can hear some "plotters" disagreeing with that statement. he he)

Oh, and just for the record - me and summaries? Not the best of friends. Summarizing an entire book in a single page doesn't come easy to me. So I'm still working on wrapping my head around that process.

Confession #2 - As a result of Confession #1, I rarely know how a story will end before I reach that final chapter. In fact, I rarely know what will happen in chapter 2 while I'm writing chapter 1. I find out when I get there, and it's not unusual for me to start writing a chapter, thinking it's going to go one way only to have it suddenly shift and go a completely unexpected direction (usually related to Confession #5).

Confession #3 - I research as I write. Research before I start a fiction project is rather pointless from my point of view, not to mention generally a waste of time. I don't know what exact details I'll need until I write that story. In the past, I've been a good little writer (at least in some people's opinion) and done an inordinate amount of research before I started a project, only to get a short way into the project and realize I needed details my previous research didn't provide. Which meant, of course, more research. So I research on the fly and seek the details I actually need at the time I need them. Works out beautifully and saves me countless hours researching information I end up not needing.

Confession #4 - The one thing I know when I start writing is my characters, and I continue to learn more about them as I write. I let them drive the story, and sometimes they take me on an incredibly wild, exciting ride. Who needs roller-coasters or other nausea-inducing adrenaline pumpers? All I need is a good cast of characters and ideas for a few situations to throw at them to keep their lives interesting. They do the rest.

Confession #5 - I sometimes argue with my characters. Yes, I know how that sounds. But when I want them to do one thing and they balk and want to do something else, we argue. They usually win. The last time that happened, I argued with my heroine for a full 2 hours. She won. Nothing more humbling than losing an argument with a fictional character. he he

Confession #6 - I lose sleep over the life of fictional characters. Seriously! It is common (and in fact, frequently occurs) that I go to bed exhausted, thinking my muse has gotten impatient with my late night writing and gone to bed without me, only to have a scene suddenly start running through my head the moment it hits the pillow. grrrr So I have to get up, power up the laptop or grab a pen and paper, and write that scene. I've done upwards of 1K in a half hour or so in the middle of the night, knowing if I don't get up and do it then, it'll have eluded me by morning.

Confession #7 - I LOVE NaNoWriMo! The challenge of meeting that one-month deadline in writing 50K spurs me to push myself, stretch those writing and thinking mental muscles, and I get to interact with other writers around the world and find out I'm not really so weird after all. What's not to like? I know there are those out there who would poo-poo and even flat out devalue and denigrate NaNoWriMo, but I ignore them. Just because they see no value in NaNoWriMo for them personally doesn't mean there's no value in it for others. For some of us, tremendous value in fact. The enjoyment of interacting with other writers alone is worth having! Throw in the writing itself, and WOOHOO!

For the same reason, I enjoy ACFW's Novel Tracks (Writing and Editing). Though I set my own goals for those, setting a goal spurs me to work harder than I would otherwise. And in the process, I get to interact with other Christian authors.

So, do I feel bad about any of these? Not on your life. My way of writing may not work for others, but it works great for me.

So be you "pantser", "plotter" or something in between, what confessions do you have to make? Have you figured out where you fit on that spectrum yet? If not, what are you doing to figure out what kind of writer you are and how best you work?


  1. I, too, am an unapologetic pantser. I've always thought outlining sounds like a good idea--for other people not for me! To me, outlining a story would take out all the fun of discovering the story as I go along. I'm able to surprise readers because I surprise myself as I write.

  2. I often wonder how I came to be a SOTP writer. I’m a very organized person, so you’d think that would equal outliner. But everything you said is me. I’ve had plotters tell me that I need to break away from being such a SOTP and do more plotting and outlining. And I’ve tried, but I never seem to go back to what I did … or stick with it, so what’s the point. Basically a waste of time. I really don’t agree with in the end they save time by outlining. What that take in time upfront, I may take in going back over my story. Overall I’d bet we both spent the same amount of time either way. I think what’s important is to have an open mind, but do what’s right and good for you, and not judge others.

    1. I most definitely agree with you there, Kym. Nothing annoys me more than the "my way is the RIGHT way" attitude I so often run up against among some portion of writers out there. For NaNo, I know plotters who have been working for weeks and even MONTHS doing their outlines for their project starting November 1st. What have I done? Spent a bit of time the last couple of weeks making sure I have basic character notes in order (eye color, hair color, ht, wt, build, etc) and designing the town for my setting. (I'm reviving an old ghost town for this year's NaNovel.) That's it. Nothing more.

      Anyway, I suspect all that time they spend outlining will translate into a lot of hours by the time they actually sit down to write. How is that any different from the hours I'll probably spend editing? And they admit they have to edit, too, so.... Trade off really. It all translates into hours working on a single project when you look at the overall picture from start to finish.

      And what it really comes down to is different ways our brains work through this stuff. I'm not letting anyone push me into going against the grain of my brain anymore. I tried it their way. It doesn't work for me. In fact, it failed beyond miserably to work for me. So I'm not going there anymore. If they don't like it, well, as my mother says, they'll get over it or they'll get under it. Either way, not my problem. ;-) We should each do what works for us as individuals, and we most definitely shouldn't shove what works for us down someone else's throat and tell them it's the "right" way to do things. That attitude is beyond arrogant. Not a godly attitude by any means. I mean, come on, HE made us unique individuals. Shouldn't we honor that as writers?

  3. I do have arguments with fictional characters & lose sleep over how they act, but I always know the end to my story even though I have to fight with characters to get there. Guilty!