Sunday, January 11, 2009

Fun, Fun, Fun

Yesterday, my friend Kristan Higgins and I presented a fun workshop that pitted plotters against pantsers. What the heck is a pantser you might ask? Well, that'd be me. While Kristan plots out each of her books, I write by the seat of my pants—no outline, no notes, no rhyme, no reason (at least none that I can document). Which way is the right way? YOUR WAY is the right way. In other words, as we told the attendees at the Connecticut Romance Writers Chapter, whatever works for each individual writer is the correct way to write a book.

To be honest, Kristan's way gives me a rash. My way gives her heart failure. Last year, I sat through a plotting workshop at a chapter meeting in which the author demonstrated her in-depth method of plotting, complete with worksheets and diagrams. My skin felt hot, my heart raced, and if it wasn't such a rude thing to do, I would've left. I want to learn. I want to be a better writer. I just don't want to hear about things that will never apply to me because they make me feel inadequate. I'm also very protective of my process. It works for me. I don't want to "infect" it with anything that will cause me to doubt it. Writers, like other creative types, are odd in more ways than one. I protect the writing. I protect myself. I protect what works for me.

When we were preparing for our workshop, Kristan made a great point—a real ah-ha moment for me. "Everyone plots," she said. Some do it with color-coded worksheets and others (like me) do it in their heads. But everyone plots. As someone who didn't think she did much plotting, I had to concede that Kristan was right about that. I've talked before about mindless tasks being my friends. Vacuuming, raking leaves, driving, washing dishes, showering, drying my hair—that's when I do the majority of my plotting. When I was close to finishing my fifth MS, I was stuck on how the ending should unfold. I knew what needed to happen. I just couldn't figure out how to make it work. I got out the vacuum, and by the time my house was clean, I had figured out what to do. It's not color coded and it's not done in advance of the writing, but it is plotting.

Thank you to CTRWA for your hospitality and to Kristan for being a lovely ying to my yang.


Cheryl Brooks said...

I'm not a plotter, either. The thought of sitting down with diagrams makes me want to throw up, and writing a synopsis before I start a book is torture because I know it will change as I write. Some of my best ideas have come to me either just as I'm about to fall asleep, or when I'm driving. Just call me a pantser!

Jessica said...

Sounds like a great day, Marie - I'm so sorry to have missed it!!

Marie Force said...

Yay, Cheryl! Let's hear it for the pantsers! Kristan held up her color-coded outline. I held up the actual copy of Line of Scrimmage and said, this is my outline. She told me to SHUT UP. LOL! I should listen to her--after all she has a RITA to her name!

Hi Jessica! Wish you could've been there, too! Hope to see you soon!

Nancy J. Cohen said...

I have to write a synopsis up front. It acts as a working guideline when I'm writing the story. The plot may change, and that's okay. I just revise the synopsis when I'm done. Character development comes first, though, then the synopsis.

Marie Force said...

Hi Nancy,
Funny how different we all approach it. I can't write down anything ahead of the story. With my super short attention span, I live in mortal fear of losing interest. If I knew what was going to happen, I'd probably never finish the book. This has worked for me on 11 and 7/8 manuscripts. Now if I could just finish that last bit of no. 12, I can take a little break!