Writer Tip Wednesday

Morning, lovely people! 🙂 We’re halfway to the weekend! *does fist-pump in the air* And today we continue the week of alliterating titles with Writer Tip Wednesday. Each Wednesday, I’m going to pop up a few tips that I’ve been lucky enough to learn so far in my publishing journey. So hopefully they can help you guys too! 🙂

To Plot Or To Pantster? That Is The Question

Now this post will come from someone who has literally been both a pantster, and is now a plotter. In case you’re wondering what on earth those terms are, they are the kind of writer you might be. A pantster literally writes ‘by the seat of their pants’, and can knock up a plotline on the fly, adding all the creative parts later in editing. A plotter will plan the storyline first, writing out the novel as it follows the pattern of events.

I’ve done both of these methods now, and can still see the benefits of both. For my paranormal novels, I’m a pantster all the way. The beauty of these novels is that it can be completely imaginative and free. Things that defy physics can happen (Take that, my old teacher, Mr. Stevens! Gravity does not ALWAYS work!), and you can twist events so sharply it creates hairpin turns. It can be fun to not even know where your characters are heading yourself, and to find out the same way as a reader would can tell you if it’s good enough or not. The downside to this kind of writing is that you must do a lot of editing. Inevitably, as you go back over the novel in the editing process, you may find you forgot to tie up a loose end, or something no longer makes sense to have. But as long as you have a keen eye before sending it off to the professional editor, you can do this method with no problem.

And what of the plotter? Recently having started on my first historical fiction, I’ve found it necessary to plot the story out, as part of it is based on a real person. (I’ll be doing another post at some point on plotting out a historical novel, as it’s very different from some other genres!) If you have a set timeline in your mind, then you can mark it out in order of events, filling the sections in between with action and dialogue, bridging each gap from A to B. This method is the one most used by new authors, and it allows for almost a ‘how-to’ of the storyline. The only downside of this method is that you may find your creativity more limited than the pantster when it comes to the editing process, as you are locked into an unchangeable (without a lot of extra work, anyway) series of events.

So, you’re new to the world of writing. You’ve got an idea of the storyline, it came to you in a dream…now what? You’re going to have to pick a method, but which one?

Pantster

This can be the easiest method to launch into, as you get straight into the process of your idea. But you will need at least the barest of notes first. Your main characters must be well-defined. No matter what your timeline does, they should be well-defined and clear before you start, because they are the backbone of your novel. You can always add to them later, and even drop in extra characters, but the main characters will drive what happens. Have a rough idea of three points; the beginning, middle, and end. Everything else can be filled inbetween. Your story essentially needs to have the protagonist(s) hitting a problem near the middle. The beginning will set events in motion to create that problem, and the second half of your book will go towards resolving the problem. (I won’t go into detail, but I explain more of how to create your plot ‘pantster style’ over at The Book Maven’s blog here.) This method is best for paranormal, romance, and humourous genres.

Not to be confused with a scenario like this, you can actually keep your pants on for the whole pantster process.

Not to be confused with a scenario like this, you can actually keep your pants on for the whole pantster process.

Plotter

This method is more difficult, but depending on your novel’s genre, you may find it a lot more helpful than winging it. Historical fiction and crime thrillers often benefit more from this process. The first thing to do, is your research. If it’s historical, find out as much as you can about the period you wish to write about – and indeed the characters, if you’re basing it on real people. Crime thrillers will require research on weapons used, crime investigation, and much more. Once you have compiled all the research to start yourself off with (you will do more during writing the novel itself!) you can move onto the novel planning. Where is your story going to end up? Will this be a series, or a one-off book? This can determine the end as much as all the other planning. As with the pantster process, work out your beginning, middle and end. However, you must work out and add on all the events in between. Don’t worry too much if you can’t figure out a section between two parts, this is where your writing itself will come in. Once you have a firm timeline, well-defined characters, and research, you’re ready to begin your novel. Although you have to craft your words as creatively as possible, be careful not to stray too far from one point to the next, as otherwise you may add unnecessary words.

You don't have to look quite as mad as this or wear a blazer when plotting, but it may help.

You don’t have to look quite as mad as this or wear a blazer when plotting, but it may help.

So although it’s only a brief introduction to writing methods, hopefully this might help you to decide which you want to use, if you’re just starting out. Which one do you think you would go for, or if you’re already writing, which one are you? 🙂

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Weirdest Processes of Famous Writers–You’re Not So Strange!

You know what makes me sad lately? People remarking (or in some cases, telling) on other writer’s methods of writing, working, or the process. No one person is like another, and no one person’s methods of writing are like another. Here’s some famous examples;

— In order to stave off procrastination, French novelist Victor Hugo wrote both Les Misérables and The Hunchback Of Notre-Dame in–you guessed it–his Birthday Suit. Being nude meant he wouldn’t be able to leave his house, and as a safety measure, he’d also instruct his valet to hide his clothes.

— As well as chain-smoking and index cards, Aaron Sorkin, has a habit of acting out his zippy dialogue while gazing at his own reflection. In 2010, he worked himself into such a frenzy, that he actually head-butted a mirror. “I wish I could say I was in a bar fight,” confessed Sorkin, “but I broke my nose writing.”

— Mary Shelley kept a domesticated 23-foot-long boa constrictor in her writing studio. She would wrap the snake around her shoulders while she wrote. When the snake grew restless and squeezed, only then would she allow herself to stop writing for the day.

— Like a LOT of writers (including me!), coffee was Honoré de Balzac’s poison. But he wasn’t drinking Lattes. He would drink large quantities of black coffee, ensuring that he could write for a full 48 hours straight. Yikes!

— In Cold Blood novelist Truman Capote described himself as a ‘horizontal author’. “I can’t think unless I’m lying down, either in bed or stretched on a couch and with a cigarette and coffee handy,” he told The Paris Review in 1957. “I’ve got to be puffing and sipping. As the afternoon wears on, I shift from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis.”

— The author of Blue Angel, Francine Prose, wears her husband’s “red and black checked flannel pajama pants and a T-shirt.” In a 1998 interview with Kate Bolick at The Atlantic, Prose says, “Fortunately, or unfortunately, we live in a strange apartment with one twenty-foot-high window facing a brick wall, about a foot and a half away. Not much of a view. So when I’m at my desk I feel like I can work undistracted. I might as well be in the country. Writing while facing a wall, incidentally, seems to me the perfect metaphor for being a writer.”

— Not only did the Three Musketeers author Alexandre Dumas insist upon himself a colour-coded system of writing (pink for non-fiction, blue for fiction and yellow for poetry), he reportedly sat below the Arc de Triomphe in Paris every morning and ate an apple for inspiration. An apple a day, keeps the procrastination away, clearly.

— William Faulkner preferred to type with his toes instead of his fingers. He kept his shoes on his hands while he worked.

— It is widely known that Hemingway, following years of work in his basement genetics lab, invented a new kind of cat with six toes. Why? I’ve no idea. But before he sat down to write, Hemingway would go over his writing goals for the day with these cats. He refused to share such things with other, normal toed cats, which he considered to be poor listeners. They’re also usually incredibly disinterested, I find. He also famously said he wrote 500 words a day, mostly in the mornings to avoid the heat. In a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934, he wrote, “I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

— Visitors looking for T.S. Elliot at a hideaway on Charing Cross Road were asked to inquire at the porter’s lodge for a man known only as “The Captain.” Upstairs, Eliot’s face was “tinted green with powder to look cadaverous.”

 

So the next time you think the way someone keeps track of their writing, writes at all, where or how they do it is odd, remember that it’s the end product that matters. Everyone’s writing process will be different from yours, and if it’s especially eccentric, you’re in good company! 🙂

 

*Thanks to MSN.com, Wikipedia, and Shortlist.com for the examples.