I’m sure I’ve alluded to it numerous times before, so you all probably know by now that I’m a pantser — someone who writes by the seat of her pants. Actually, I prefer the more glamorous term barnstormer, but since writing, for the most part, is definitely an unglamorous process (case in point, me sitting here in my dressing gown at 10am on a Tuesday morning, having just cleared my email inbox) I won’t quibble.
And you probably have figured out from the number of different titles and genres of the manuscripts listed on my Awards page, that I like to set myself challenges. By that, I mean trying new things. I’ve already written a post called Challenge Yourself If You Can, where I talk about how setting myself writing challenges ultimately led to me being published in novella length paranormal romance.
So what d’you figure the biggest challenge a dedicated barnstormer/pantser who habitually has a couple of characters, a beginning & an ending, and maybe a few pivotal scenes in mind, but no real idea what’s gonna happen until she sits down and starts to write, might be?
Here’s a clue. It begins with P and ends with G. (And it has nothing to do with putting one foot after another and wishing you hadn’t decided to walk because you hate walking and there’s a bit of a breeze and your ears have started to ache and that hill you have to climb seems insurmountable….)
Yep, that’s right: Plotting.
Specifically, writing an outline for an entire manuscript. *Cue full-body shudders*
Seriously, though, I have previously resorted to chapter-by-chapter outlines when my muse (the fickle beyotch!) went on holiday, leaving me stuck with seven beautifully polished and edited chapters of a manuscript, and no freaking idea of how I was gonna get to the ending I envisioned. And what was interesting about that particular process was that I didn’t scrap anything I’d already written, but I did end up moving some of the chapters around and sticking them further on in the story. So I’d have full chapters, then a big gap with chapter outlines, one completed chapter, another big gap with chapter outlines and so on. And it did wonders for the pacing. Imagine that?!
And on the days where I really didn’t want to write, it sure helped to open up the file and “know” what was gonna be written today — what my goal was.
But on the days that my muse took over and just wanted to go her own sweet way, it was another level of Hell having to conform to that outline and stick to the plot. Hence me never actually writing an outline again.
You see, I’ve decided that I can’t keep going the way I’m going. Writing for me. Writing whatever I want. Writing however I want. Finalling in contests — even winning contests. Getting nowhere…. Well, if you can call the aforementioned getting nowhere. Some would say that’s definitely somewhere!
Me? I call it time to try something different. Again.
So (shock! horror! gasp!) I targetted a specific publisher before sitting down to write the book. And I did character sketches. And outlined the entire book scene-by-scene. And OMG, I’m breaking out in hives just thinking about it! Because every time I opened up that damn file, I just wanted to quit with the outlining and start on the fun stuff. Yanno, the writing part — the exciting, exhilarating, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious part! And whenever I thought up a dialogue snippet and noted it in the outline, I had to rein mysef in and stop myself from turning that snippet into a conversation, and turning the conversation into a scene, and just running with it…. going for it.
Gah! Can we say, H A R D, people?
And finally, it was done to my satisfaction. Well, not to my satisfaction, but near enough that I could get started on the good stuff. THE WRITING. Oh yay! *weeps with relief*
Only trouble is, I’m up to chapter two, and wouldn’t ya know it? I’m bloody well digressing from the outline already. My heroine doesn’t want to be a paralegal. Noooo. That would be too easy. Cuz, yanno, I’ve researched the profession and all the info I need is at my fingertips. So of course she wants to be a bloody interior designer!
Huh. Didn’t see that coming until I couldn’t sleep last night and my evil muse inserted the suggestion into my poor, susceptible brain. The bugger of it all is that given the hero’s profession, it’ll create conflict so it’s a really good idea. Mind you, having her be a paralegal was going to create conflict, too. At least, it did in my fricking outline. The one that I agonised over.
And here’s another thing: I decided my hero had to meet my heroine earlier on. And I discovered a really cool, funny way for that to happen while I was writing chapter one and of course, I went for it. As you do. Except…. Now my outline is even more out of date *sob*
So, what to do?
Shrug and get on with it, I guess. Try to stick to the outline but don’t get too hung up about it, I guess. Look at it as a challenge…. Did I mention I liked challenges?
Will keep you posted on my progress.