Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Edits continue, spell-check is ignored, days are lost, cycle is repeated

Call me a ‘pantser’ if you must, although I prefer the term ‘organic writer.’ It makes it sound a little less like I have no idea what in the seven hells I’m doing.

I don’t despise outlines because I think it makes the writing bland, or even becayse they give me the screaming night sweats (although they do; my distaste for them is secondary only to query letters, bad grammar, and agents who ‘only reply if interested’). No, I don’t do outlines because I can’t.  You see, I don’t actually know what’s going to happen next.

I have a vague sense of the major events and themes in my stories (sometimes), but I don’t know how I’m going to get there until I’m actually there. The story ebbs and flows as I travel through it, plot points and conflicts peeping up like mischievous islands beneath an opaque veil of fog. They advance, they recede; they creep in and take me by surprise or pop up in an entirely different place than last time, but gradually the story unfolds before me like a map. It can take a long time, and I can’t always predict what part of the story I will learn next.

Last week, for example, while wracking my brain and scouring the undulating ocean of darkness for the next chapter in Book 2, I stumbled upon a chapter for Book 3. Startled me clean out of my knickers. “Where did that come from?” I wonder. But we mustn’t offend the Muses, now, must we? We take what we can get, say thank you, and file it away for later.

It wasn’t what I needed that second, but it gave me hope for my series.

I was snooping around the forums and I found a thread where someone was asking for advice: A publisher wanted synopses for all three books in her trilogy so they could consider offering her a three-book-deal. It sent me into a moment of blind panic.

“What if someone offers me a three-book-deal?” I wondered, uncharacteristically optimistic for no logical reason.

I can imagine the argument between myself and the psychopath who demands three synopses from me:

“How am I supposed to know what happens in the next book? I don’t even know what’s going to happen in this one! What do you mean, ‘because I’m the author?’ What do you mean, ‘because it’s my world?’ Earth is your world…can you tell me what’s going to happen next week? Then how should I know what’s going to happen to Anaiiya? It’s not enough that I spent countless hours  hand-crafting you a literary masterpiece, now you want me to predict the future? Are you insane? I have trouble coming up with a couple hundred words three or four times a week for my blog. I hate you!”

There. I’ve ruined everything.

Serves me right; shame on me, jumping ahead to a three-book deal. I know better than to tempt the Fates like that.

So what about all of you?  I know lots of writers have their stories meticulously planned out, but I've almost never been able to do that.  How do you all write?


  1. I am an *ahem* organic writer myself. I outline when I'm having trouble figuring out what's next, but bullocks if I actually stick with it.

    I'm like you. I can't see too far ahead from where I am in the story. Makes for entertaining edits, but I still get a good tale out if it.

  2. I wrote my early books as a response to the question, "What if my dad were actually a monster?" That was the entire basis for those books, and all of the planning involved. I do remember I had vague ideas about what might happen, but that none of those materialized as I allowed the characters to speak to me.

    I wrote a tentative map of my current WIP. I knew it'd best serve as "tentative," because inevitably characters seem to have a different idea about things than you think they ought. :)


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