Recovering Pantser

March 15, 2018

 

Don’t get caught with your pants down.

Hi, my name is Charl and I’m a Pantser.

(Hi Charl.)

I’ve been clean for sixty days.

(Enthusiastic round of applause)

Thanks. Tonight, I’m sharing my journey that started that awful day, the last straw, you know. I was tired of living in denial, being caught with my pants down.

(Sympathetic nods)

I always prided myself in being a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-lace-panties sort of writer.

(A few giggles)

But I was becoming seriously unglued and couldn’t figure out why. My stories needed multiple revisions, which is as it should be, but not when you think the story is done and dusted and ready to go to the editor.

There’s not much worse than reading your manuscript one last time and finding the plot just doesn’t gel—maybe finding it doesn’t gel after you’ve published is worse.

(Mumbles of agreement)

I thought I was fine—you know how it goes. First, the story is conceived in your head. Then, the embryo grows, the ideas come as you spend time thinking about it. Next thing, it becomes an obsession to write—give birth to it. Off you go at a rate of knots and find yourself pounding away furiously at four every morning!

(Knowing nods)

When I was writing The Bastard, all went well, the words were just flowing. Then I realized I had a genuine problem. At first it was ignorant bliss—you know, I just went for it and all was good. Oh boy, then I hit a brick wall. I had no idea how to end the story. I mean, I knew I wanted a happy ending, but how to arrive there was another mountain to climb. I left it for a few weeks—no luck. Then I left it for six months—still no luck. A year later, then two years later, and I was no better off.

Writer’s block hit me big time. I couldn’t live in denial any more. I’d hit my rock bottom.

(Hushed silence)

Of course, there’s no such thing. I know that now. Writer’s block is just an excuse for bad planning. Sure, go ahead and draft an outline or synopsis, but STOP right there!

(Laughter)

I was at my wits end. I jumped.

(Gasps)

Yes. I jumped from one incomplete story to the next until my head spun. Then I panicked. Oh, God, I’m not a writer, I’m a failure.

(More sympathetic nods)

Then I discovered two books. How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson.

https://www.nownovel.com/blog/understanding-snowflake-method/

And Wired for Story by Lisa Cron.

http://wiredforstory.com/wired-for-story/

(Group leans forward in anticipation)

Ingermanson’s Snowflake method starts with a one-line sentence—a logline—and expands from there.

Lisa Cron uses brain science. She showed me how to take advantage of the brain’s hardwired responses to stories to hook readers. Her take on how to plot a story is enlightening. She’s totally different to a lot of the other recovery methods out there, and trust me, I’ve been around the block!

(Knowing laughs)

So that’s basically how I got to sixty days. The Snowflake Method turned me away from the edge and Lisa Cron’s book started me on the road to recovery.

Of course, once the euphoria of early success wears off, the hard work begins. The temptation to go back to my old ways was powerful. All I have to say is, without these meetings, I wouldn’t have made it. You guys are my family.

(Cheers)

It’s not easy going back to the drawing board when you think a novel is all but done. Oh, how I was tempted to just throw caution and my panties to the wind!

(All round chuckles)

Except, now I had an incentive! All those incomplete novels. When I got stuck in, reality hit. Plot flaws popped up like little gremlins—everywhere! I hadn’t realized the extent of my problem. I had to learn that a story is like a journey—you can’t take a cross-country trip without a map!

There was a time I thought I wouldn’t make it, but I promise, use both these methods and you will be set free from pantser addiction.

Be kind to yourself. You don’t have to be rigid about planning, take it one day at a time. Fake it till you make it, as they say. Just plan what you can and build your strength.

Thanks for listening guys. I still have a long way to go, but I’m on the road to recovery. Bring it on, ninety days!

(Applause)

Think of a story as a tapestry. First off, you would never start without a picture of some sort with the design and colors all mapped out—not even a freestyle tapestry. Then you need to tie off all the loose ends. Not that I do tapestry, but I can appreciate the work involved.

Writing a book is a hell of a lot of arduous work combined with ten percent talent. And it all starts on an idea. But don’t take the idea and wing it--plan! In the long run, planning makes for less hard work.

 

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