9 29 2021 On Writing
I just want to touch briefly on something I’ve had on my mind before it vanishes, as those things tend to do sometimes.
I’ve been reading, in a couple of places, about contrasts in writing styles. The gist of these essays were that there are two styles, likened to nails and headlights. You either nail down you plot ahead of time, or see only as far as a headlight as you go along. These styles are also called “pantsing” and “plotting.” It’s been my feeling, and I thing I’ve written it here before, that every writer is actually a combination of these two. No one plots every single detail before they start writing and never changes a thing. Also, no one starts writing having no idea at all what they’re going to write about. Like, what shall I touch upon today? Ice cream, romance, murders, windows, game shows? No, the story and the characters unfold for both kinds of writers, for every writer. That’s why this is called a creative process. The story is being created.
One of my sources is this article from the Suite T blog, an offshoot of Southern Writers Magazine:
But I have to add one more thing that helps me to say what I want to say in my fiction, as I headlight and nail along. That’s a quote by Georgia O’Keeffe that hangs on my office wall. I bought it in the O’Keeffe museum in New Mexico (which you should visit if you get a change). My photo doesn’t capture the fine print, which is: “Details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things.”
Image is mine
I wrote what I thought was a fine thoughtful comment on this which was tragically eaten by Firefox, of all things.ReplyDelete
Basically I wondered if you find yourself doing more plotting when you're writing a shorter series than a longer one. I'm thinking of how trilogies would be plotted out because they're basically one long book, right?
I do almost no plotting for short stories. I have to plot every single novel, whether it's a long novel, one of a series, or a stand alone. For a series, I do plan out an arc, a question or problem to run through the series. So far, I haven't had a series go for more than 3 books, which may be good, because those arcs are usually about 3 books long.Delete
Thanks for stopping by!
I have a trilogy-in-progress that requires some plotting, although I call myself an organic writer ... I dig in and write. Somewhere along the way have delve more into planning (plotting). Not all trilogies are one long story. In mine, each book has a central cast and complete arc that can be viewed independently of the others. There is a larger arc from which the 3 books suspend and form the trilogy. Some overlap of cast occurs, but not as overly much. For short stories, I often do no planning unless I get stuck, which usually means I've gone astray somewhere. Then I look at story structure or use Plottr to see what I might do to get back on track.Delete
Thanks for stopping by, Claire! I guess a trio with one main story for all three books would actually be one realllly long book that got broken up! I call the story line that continues in the background a story arc. IMO, that's where you get the internal growth of the main character from. I've used a developing romance, a mystery from the past, and other things. It's so hard to judge how far to take it and when to wrap it up, since you never know how many books the publisher will want.ReplyDelete
Headlights. Sometimes just running lights. Sometimes lights that show the ending but blur the middle (from beginning to end). I felt better when I read an essay by Tony Hillerman, who said he was a pantser, that he didn't know why a German shepherd suddenly appeared in one of his books but later the dog turned out to be important. Of course, he obviously didn't stop to worry about pantsing as much as I do. And he wasn't lazy.ReplyDelete
There are good writers who adopt both methods. Don't apologize for your own style! Your product is excellent.Delete