Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Stories Like to Explode On Me

In the world of writing I’m what they call a “pantser”. A pantser is someone who writes by “the seat of their pants” with no planning or plotting in sight. Those who do plot are, naturally, called plotters.

Now, you see, I’ve always found it odd that I’m a pantser. I’m one who loves to stay organized. Making lists is one of my most favorite things to do. Keeping track of things, having it all straight, making plans ahead of time, that’s what makes me happy. That’s how I function in life. I am a perfectionist after all. But when it comes to writing, it’s as if I’m a totally different person.

With writing that caution gets tossed, or more liked hurled, away in the wind, and my natural planning self right along with it. When I start writing I usually have a plot figured out and know who my characters are, but that’s it. All the details, big and small, reveal themselves to me as I’m writing. I write my novels as if I’m a first time reader whose only knowledge of the story is the back cover blurb (and sometimes I don’t even have enough plot to know that much). When a plot twist takes place or the villain makes an unexpected appearance or a character suddenly dies (eep) it’s just as a surprise to me as it would be a new reader.

I’ve tried plotting. I still try plotting. For every NaNoWriMo I make a full outline for my novel because the idea of trying to pants a novel during such a challenge terrifies me. I make bios for my characters with full descriptions of their personalities and backgrounds and all. I’ve planned out entire fantasy worlds. I’ve made full out maps. I’m even right now attempting to make in-depth timelines for the characters in a particular book. But then when I actually start writing the story all my plans and plotting explode.

Whenever I outline a book things happen that I totally did not expect. And said things often want to change the story entirely and just throw the outline in the trash. As I write about already planned out characters they reveal something of their past that totally blows my measly little plans for them out of the water. While exploring a fantasy world during the writing process I discover the places I thought I had planned are entirely different. In fact, I really did have to scrap one of my maps and completely remake it one time. And just this week I was exploring one of my main character’s background in more detail, I had his timeline written out and everything, but as I wrote a scene from his past an important, painstaking part of the timeline I spent much thought on turned out to be utterly wrong. The character looked at the timeline, shook his head, and told me clearly that was not how the events took place. So rewrite some of his timeline I did (and that was not the first time I had to change events of his past).

So this is what happens when I try to plan, it all goes in the recycle bin while my stories and characters are laughing at my expense at all the surprises they throw at me.

…And I kind of like it.

It confuses me that I rather enjoy being a pantser over a plotter. I like having plans and organization in place, remember? But with writing I’m a different person. Even though I do plan some things and it can be helpful (you know, until my characters inform me it’s all wrong), I really love nothing more than staring at a blank word document with a world of discovery ahead of me. We all love reading books for the first time, right? Sure, it’s always fun rereading and visiting the people and places we know and love, but there’s something magical about that first time, that anticipation of the unknown. That’s how it is with writing for me. When I plan, it takes away the excitement of discovering new things. I think plotting’s great, and I very much admire all those plotters out there, sometimes I even envy them, but when a character jumps out at me with a completely unexpected, exciting surprise, I realize pantsing will always be my own personal favorite way to write.

I rather like being a reckless writer. It’s fun to throw away the rules and go on a wild ride. Being surprised at every turn is the very thing that keeps my fingers clacking on those keys. I mean, what’s better than making new discoveries every day? Being a writer is pretty great.

Even when your stories explode.

Something Wonderful

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Characters are People Too

Male WarriorThere are some people in the world who may claim loving fictional characters like your own children is a bit odd.

Ha ha! Silly people.

How can I not help but giggle when Lisseria goes off on her rambling tangents?

Or snort when old Mortimer does not actually remember his first name?

Can I really help smiling as Ethryl calmly strolls across a deck of battling pirates?

Is it wrong to want to hug Arthur when he’s having one of his melancholy moments?

Or laugh when Nyria’s being. . .Nyria?

I mean really.

These are people that formed themselves into my very mind. I’ve laughed with them and cried with them and, yes, have had many a time where I want to give them a hug. (But maybe not the villains because that would end badly.) And why not? I probably (shamefully) spend more time with these folks than I do many people I know in real life. (I’m a writer, what can I say?) I’ve been right there with them during every strife, every moment of joy, all the challenges and adventures.

Girl in the Grass

To me, characters aren’t just people I come up with to throw into a story. They’re people who have feelings just like you or me. They have favorite colors and fears and things that make them cry or laugh and particular taste buds and certain fashions and they love and hate and wish and dream… No, they’re not just words on a page. Characters are NEVER just words on a page. They’re so, so much more.

Female in the WindI know many people feel this way, but I doubt a single write does not feel this way. These characters are people we spend hours with. We learn who they are and go right alongside them during all their challenges. It’s an impossible feeling to explain honestly. It’s something you have to experience. But, let me tell you, there’s really nothing like that moment when a character becomes real to you.

Because they’re people too.

Perhaps I am crazy, but that’s okay! I’m a writer, crazy is what we do. *wink*

I love my characters!

…Even if sometimes they give me as much strife as I give them. *cough*

(And don’t be surprised if more “Character” posts pop up. Characters is my favorite part of writing, which I’m sure you’ve just guessed, and I can go on about it for hours!)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

In Which I Try Not to Be a Perfectionist

I believe I’ve mentioned before that I’m a perfectionist. I’m one of those people that would interrupt an important meeting just to straighten the crooked picture on the wall. When I see a wrinkle in my comforter on my bed I drop everything I’m doing to smooth it out. Just now I reached up to straighten my slightly askew lampshade. Yeah, I’m one of those people. So you can imagine what it’s like for me to try to write a book.

Right now I’m well into a story that I’m thoroughly enjoying writing, but there’s still so many things just niggling at my mind that so desperately want to be fixed. I need to soon start working my way towards the story’s finale and yet I feel like the story has hardly begun. I keep thinking of scenes I should have added or parts that really have no need to be there. I see paragraphs that I know should be rewritten. Sentences I don’t like. Words that should be changed. Grammar that needs tweaking. On and on and on my perfectionist brain goes. It has that incessant need to make everything, well, perfect. No room for error.

But then I remember something.

First drafts supposed to be messy.

Keep Calm and Write Something

I’m learning (and reminded myself daily over and over again) that when writing a story the first draft is basically jotting all your ideas down. I don’t have this story plotted out, so naturally the first draft would come out a little all over the place. I’m learning the story as I go, I’m discovering it, exploring all the little details that I never knew before. That’s what you do with first drafts, that’s their entire purpose. To explore the story and see what happens.

It’s after the first draft is completely written that the perfectionists in us, those inner editors, can be let loose. Once the first draft is done then we tackle all the problems and perfect them. But there can be nothing to perfect if the first draft is not first written.

So I’m forcing myself to forget all the many problems of the story. As tempting as it is to just start over and try to make it better, I’m not going to allow myself that. Right now is the time to just lean back and let the tale take me on a wild ride, wherever it leads, even if it means pushing away common sense and proper grammar. All the rewriting and editing comes once the first draft is finished. And I’m learning editing isn't quite as scary as I always feared. So even if I have to rewrite the whole thing, that’s okay. I just need to enjoy this first draft.

But, however much I talk about it, that horrible perfectionist in me is constantly trying to get out. So today I think I’m going to stuff my Perfectionist Side in a box and mail it to China. There it can build up and be ready to explode when the time for editing arrives.

Cardboard Box

I’m going to enjoy writing the rest of this story, no matter how it turns out. Because I’m learning that if the first draft isn’t messy, then something’s wrong.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Child Within

I believe that we should never let go of the child within us.

Children look at the world as something brand new and exciting.

They seek out to explore and discover all of God’s creations.

Even the simple things are delightful.

Their imaginations are endless.

Beautiful things are always seen through their eyes.

They grin at strangers.

Their love is given freely.

They believe in the impossible.

Children find joy in thing adults take for granted.

They do not spend their days fretting; they play and explore and see each day as something wondrous and new, not something to dread.

I never want to lose the child within me.

I want to have the deep faith and love of a child.

I want every day, every simple thing in life, all of God’s creations, to be new and wondrous and delightful in my eyes.

Personally, I believe children have a lot more sense than adults. *wink*


Thursday, July 4, 2013

Forever Free


Vintage American FlagImage via Little Birdie Blessings

Today, thinking about the blessing of freedom, reminds me of that beautiful freedom we have in Christ.

Jesus died on the cross to unlock the chains of sin around us. He set us FREE. If we have accepted Him as our Savior, never again do we have to be weighed down by the burden of sin.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1

No matter where we are or where life leads us, we will FOREVER have that freedom Christ has given us.

Today I want to celebrate ALL the blessed freedom I have been so mercifully given.

I pray you all have a spectacular 4th!


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