There are many debates in the world of writing: pen and paper vs. computer, traditional publishing vs. self-publishing, indie vs. mainstream, blog vs. website. The simple truth is there is no right or wrong way to go about this process. Every writer is different, so each process is different. One debate I find the most interesting is plotting vs. pantsing.
Plotting is where a writer creates a plan before writing a draft. Some writers have to have everything planned out. They have to have sketches of every major and minor characters. They worldbuild. They have outlines of every chapter. There is little room to go off the path. And even when they do, there’s a plan. I find novels or long short stories encourage plotting. Pantsing, on the other hand, is when writers just starts writing. There is no set plan. In the process of writing, characters come off the fly, a plot slowly forms, a world is created right before their eyes. During the editing, they may decide to flesh out a main character further and clean up some details. The purpose, when all is said and done, is to get it out of the mind and onto the page. This is especially the case with poems and flash fiction.
Some are pure plotters, some are pure pantser. And some are both of varying degrees depending on the project, which is the case with me. I consider myself more of a plotter than a pantser. I have to, at least, have character sketches and a basic idea of the plot before writing a draft. But when it comes to the actual writing, I am a pantser. I don’t always start at the beginning of a story. I find writing the beginning to be the most difficult. I’ll start at a major plot point somewhere in the middle. As I edit, I’ll come up with a beginning based around what I’ve written so far. This is especially the case with short stories. If I do write a novel, I want a plan. I can’t imagine writing any other way.
I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to share a couple of characters that I kept on the backburner. This one is a little more recent. And by recent, I mean after I graduated from college. His name is Oliver Greene.
Oliver Greene is a 22-year-old student who receives a letter from his mother. It says that his father is very ill. She requests that he come down to Newport to visit the family in case the worst happens. He struggles with the decision, as he does not have a good relationship with his father. (Cliché, I know.) He contemplates his choice even after arriving at the bus station. His sister takes him to the hospital and have a somber family reunion.
This is where Mark Twain’s quote makes some sense for me. Recently, I had a relative who passed away. My relationship was good, not great. She loved the family and did whatever she could to make sure we communicated with one another. After her passing, the relatives made a concerted effort to keep in touch. It’s worked so far.
This is another of those stories where I don’t know where to go with it. When I first wrote this story, I wanted him to wrestle with this decision at the bus station, and end it at the station. In another draft, I wanted to focus on the relationships he has with his family while at the hospital. At some point, I thought about combining the two. And yet, I thought about Oliver meeting the family at the home, watching his father tinker and having a conversation with his father before falling ill.
There are so many avenues with this story. I almost gave up on it because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write it. But a good friend on Twitter told me that stories, like us, have their season. It didn’t feel right writing this story straight out of college. I wasn’t ready to write. At least, not without a plan. So, we’ll see how this turns out in the future.
I can’t believe I’ve made it halfway through this challenge. I have read and followed some interesting bloggers already. I hope that those who are reading my posts have found them entertaining at least.
So, here’s a little heads-up. With these next two posts, which will probably be very short, I’m giving you glimpses of characters I want to use in future stories. I’ve heard different opinions about divulging details like this, but I want to invite readers to how I write and why I write. That includes character names and situations. I may use them now, or later. I may use the situation I thrust upon them now, or scrap it for something better. Who knows?
When I was in college, I wanted to craft a mystery short story with the main character named “Nick Bartleby.” I really liked Bartleby–named after “Bartleby the Scrivener”–as a last name. The story is about a janitor who witnesses the murder of a young girl in a building across from where he works. He’s conflicted on whether to call the police because it would arouse suspicion because he displays voyeuristic tendencies; spying on her, writing love letters, that sort of thing. Plus, he’s much older than her, which makes it all the more creepy.
I haven’t played much with this story in college. It never made the drafting stage. But, I kept the character in the recesses of my mind if another idea ever came to be. I may still use the original story I thought of, but we’ll see.
Okay, so it’s out there. Let me know what you think in the comments. Should I scrap this story or not? If there are better avenues to take this character, I’m all ears. I value your input.
As I am composing this post, I am streaming light classical music on Pandora. I named the station “Writer’s Radio.”
Early in my writing endeavors, that wasn’t the case. I didn’t see the connection between music and writing. I felt it was too much of a distraction. But I read in blogs about how music played a role in writing. So, I decided to give it a try. I tried many different stations, and I found classical music–the light variety–to be my go-to station. In general, listening to this genre helped calm me. It helped me focus on a task. So, when the time came to work on my stories for college, I would turn on the radio and tune it to the local public radio station, the only station that played classical music throughout the day.
Apps like Pandora, Spotify, and iTune Radio are a godsend. I can’t imagine not listening to music when I write. There’s something about music that stirs the creative juices in just the right way. It awakens the muse who tends to sleep on us. Classical music is my first option in writing, but I experiment with different stations on Pandora, depending on the mood and what I’m writing. I have a station dedicated to Lindsey Stirling, which is quickly becoming a favorite. I have stations featuring gaming scores, film scores, and music meant for relaxation. I’m sure I’ll find more stations to listen to as I expand and continue my writing journey.
Here’s a secret. I struggle with being lazy. I’m struggling with it as I’m writing this post. The problem with laziness is that it’s easy to be lazy. It takes hard work if we want anything substantial. The truth of the matter is that we are a lazy generation. I believe some of that is due to technology. Nowadays, everything is just a button push away. I remember having to write down orders before calling in for a delivery. Now, with a few taps of a smartphone, the order’s placed without breaking a sweat. (Ok, bad example, but you get the idea.) Continue reading “2015 A to Z Blogging Challenge: L is for Laziness”
I thought about talking about my own family in my “F is for Family” post, but I decided against it. I try not to discuss issues involving personal matters. If I do, I try not to name names to protect themselves. If that’s settled, let’s continue.
I never thought I would be the kind of person to settle down and have a family of my own. But wouldn’t you know it, I am. I have two kids of my own; a four-year-old daughter and a five-month-old son. I love them very much. The daughter is very outspoken and energetic, as most four-year-olds are. You can’t get her to slow down. The boy is a curious one, I can tell. He takes in everything with awe and wonder. Most babies do.
So, why am I talking about my kids and what do they have to do with my writing? I think as writers, we have somewhat of a responsibility to leave something worthwhile to the next generation. I don’t think we go into writing with that responsibility laying on our shoulders from day one, but we do wonder whether or not our books will still be read long after we’re gone. We wonder if future generation will be inspired to take up the pen and paper, or laptop, or whatever technology develops for word processing, and follow in our footsteps.
As for me, I want to leave a legacy for my kids through my writing. And it’s not just about the books. Rather, I want to build a legacy of big dreams and courage. I want them to know that I took risks. I stepped outside my comfort zone. I dreamed big. Whether or not those dreams come true and those risks pay off is anyone’s guess. I just want them to know that I tried, and that’s the most important.
When I took my Creative Writing courses in college, the one constant exercise was journaling. I was always told to keep a journal. Write down anything and everything I observed. I admit that I did not see much value in keeping a journal. I didn’t see the link between journaling and the writing process. I didn’t take journaling seriously. But ideas would randomly pop in my head, and they would vanish as quick as they appeared. I regretted not writing them down when the opportunity presented itself.
I believe all writers need a journal. We have all sorts of thoughts running through our brains: characters, paragraphs, stories, miscellaneous thoughts that have zero connection to writing. I have two journals: one for my stories and one for random thoughts. And when carrying a big notebook isn’t practical, technology steps in. Every phone has some kind of camera and voice recorder. And there are apps on smartphones for dictation, note-taking, and journaling. My go-to app is Evernote. With it, I can organize notes into notebooks without worrying about space. And recently, my wife told me about an app called One Day. It’s a journal app that reminds you to write something in it, even if it’s just a sentence. I will be downloading that soon.
After I graduated, I started keeping journals to record everything. The one regret I have now is not keeping them when I filled them up. It’s interesting looking back on them and read what I recorded, to remember what I was thinking at that moment. So, I need to find a box to keep those precious thoughts so that I can come back to them if ever I need an idea or if I’m feeling nostalgic. Journaling has become part of my writing process. I regret not doing this sooner.