Posted in General

How to Be a Pantser

No, this is not a guide on how to properly pants others. Rather, this is a guide on how to survive being a pantser-type writer. You may have also heard them referred to as discovery writers or gardeners. Regardless of the name, the idea is the same: these are the writers that dive into a story without a plan.

Before anyone starts on which type of writer is better, I’m going to stop you. There is no one ‘better’ type of writer. A lot of how you find a story best comes down to how your brain is wired. Pantsers are not inherently more creative than plotters. Plotters are not automatically better organized than pantsers. It’s not a polarity, it’s a spectrum. Most writers don’t fall solidly into one group or the other, but sit somewhere in the middle, working with a mix of both approaches: A little random writing, a couple of guides to keep them straight and an end goal that sounds something like ‘the end’.

That said I, personally, tend to be more of a pantser. Given an outline and I can write, but I find the story tedious. That comes down to feeling as if the story has already been told. Part of the delight in being a pantser is finding a new story, with new twists and turns.

There’s downfalls that go with that however. For one, a lack of ideas on any story can make it tough to get through it. The other part of that is that while I might know what happens six or seven scenes down the road, I’m clueless on how to get there from where the story is currently.

Lesson one: To be a pantser, keep inspiration close by.  This doesn’t need to be clear-cut ideas either. It might be something like a mood board, or a playlist of songs. When it doubt, I love prompt generators to help kick start other ideas and help piece things together. Fashion photography also tends to have dynamic poses and unusual settings you can use to create characters and scenes. Try a quick freewrite based on the idea that the photo is a perfectly normal day for the character.

You can also collect inspiration from every-day places. Out of context conversations are great fodder for sparking ideas. When out and and about, try to come up with stories for each of the people you see on the street. What do they look like? What could be going on in their world?

Along with lesson one, there’s lesson two: Rules don’t matter. Stuck in the middle of a scene? Throw in something ridiculous, or unexpected, or completely illogical. You can make it work later when you edit. Your goal for the early drafts is to just get them down. It’s much easier to cut out parts that don’t work than it is to shoehorn in a scene that does work later.

Which, brings us to the third and final lesson: blindfold your editor. Every single writer has an inner editor, and they often get cranky about things like grammar, glaring plot inconsistencies and broken character arcs. Your job as a pantser is not to listen to that inner editor. Your job is just to write so you have something to edit later. That’s not always easy, but there are plenty of tricks you can employ.

  • Blocks of text are great for hiding errors. Your eyes are naturally inclined to skim over them, rather than try to read. Try justifying your setting and removing any indents. Don’t forget to remove any spaces between paragraphs. It’s easy enough in most word processing programs to adjust these again later when you want to edit.
  • If your processor underlines mistakes in a certain color, change your font to match that color. When everything looks the same, it’s harder to pick out individual mistakes.
  • Have a seperate list of notes for things to look at when you do the next draft. These don’t need to be detailed notes, but a quick jot will usually help satisfy your inner editor about any structural mistakes.

What are your favorite pantser techniques?

Posted in blogging, General

Updates to Prompts

Some of my regular readers may have noticed that yesterday I didn’t post a prompt of any sort. In part, that’s because I’m shifting when I post them. The other part of that is that I want to adjust what prompts I post.

I’m not planning on making the complete change until December starts, largely because of time constraints. The other part of that is that I want a chance to get the first few prompts ready so I can schedule them ahead of time. Although creating an image for them doesn’t take very long, as I said, I want to adjust what I’m posting.

Namely, I’d like to switch out the one-word prompts for some of the dialogue prompts. These are actually coming out of the things I’ve overheard, some of which you can check out here. One-word prompts won’t be entirely phased out but will be reduced to once or twice a month.

I’m also looking to shift prompts to Wednesday. That’s more driven by behind-the-scenes details than anything else. Because I’m not planning on implementing all of the changes until December, that does mean the number of posts I’m putting out will be reduced through November.

As always, I’m looking forward to sharing the prompts I have and seeing what everyone comes up with.

Posted in blogging, General

October Recap

October has flown by. It’s hard to believe that there’s just a few days left before Halloween arrives and then onward to NaNoWriMo.

In terms of meeting my goals for October, I did get my second draft done. I’m happy about it, but also really looking forward to finally writing something new. As for the NaNo prep, I’m happy that I was able to get so much of the notes and worldbuilding done.

The other part of that NaNo prep was doing a lot of exploratory exercises to help flesh out some of the stories. So many in fact, that I’m giving myself a mini challenge to post a story a week throughout November. That’ll partially make up for the months I missed posting a short story and make it a little easier to balance writing blog posts with everything else.

What are your goals for November?

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On Being Overwhelmed

Normally I like to set one project a month to focus on, for a couple of reasons. One, I’m not as likely to get distracted by a million other projects I want to work on. Two, it makes it easier to break down huge tasks into smaller ones. In a perfect situation, that means I’m not juggling a multide of things to do.

Life being what it is however, that’s not always the case. For this month, I’m not only juggling my main project, but also a new job, and trying to put together some semblance of a plan for what I’m doing with Crimson and Gold. Faced with the first round of edits on my current project, wanting to start NaNoPrep and figuring out what I need to do for a launch, it feels like there’s not enough hours in the day.

When facing a seemingly insurmountable task–or tasks, as the case very well is–often it helps to take a step back. Some of that overwhelming feeling comes from picking up more things and forgetting not everything has to be done right now. Often it helps to figure out which tasks can be done later. In this case, that happens to be my NaNoPrep.

Another part of that is also to break the large tasks down into smaller tasks. For my first round of edits, that means breaking it down into doing a plot overview and an outline so I can fix a couple of larger plotholes. For sorting out Crimson and Gold, that means taking a day or two and coming up with a plan so I can check things off as they get done. After all, I’m at least a few months away from publishing that, which means plenty of time to organize myself so I’m not swamped by huge amounts of work.

What do you do when you’re overwhelmed?

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September Recap

Normally I prefer to have my recaps done before the month actually ends but the last couple of weeks ended up being incredibly busy and on top of everything else, I’ve started a new job. It feels like just about the time I get used to the routine around my house, something else changes. I’m enjoying the new job and the most recent changes, but adjusting to them has pushed my normal routines out a little bit.

For most of September however, I spent it organizing and world-building. I didn’t end up settling one one main project, instead bouncing around on lots of different  ones. Although it meant there wasn’t anything technically finished for September, I’m heading into the rest of the year with a solid foundation for some of my projects.

October’s projects are a little split. I have a second draft I’d like to finish, and towards the end of the month I’d like to do some NaNoPrep. I’m hoping to have my second draft completely finished out by the twenty-fifth or so.

How was your September?