Saturday, 14 June 2014

WRITING BY THE SEAT OF YOUR PANTS




I recently entered a month long 500-words-a-day challenge. ‘Easy peasy’ I thought, not realizing life had a bucket of things to throw at me over the next four weeks. I took off with gusto, whistling up 2,500 words in the first four days, thinking ‘Ah-ha, I’m ahead of this game’. Then I struck a problem.  I ran out of ideas.  I had a number of characters I intended to use in this proposed novel and this would be the first rough (very rough) draft. No one would be overseeing it, critiquing it, or ‘dishing’ it either, so I could just write, write, write. I introduced the characters, each one a gem in his/her own right but chapter two loomed and I didn’t know where to go next. No immediate plot-posts ahead to aim for and a big blank in my brain.
I remembered how many of my author friends pantster their writing. Sitting at the computer, hands above the keyboard, letting the thoughts run out of their fingertips. I’d always thought, ‘No, not for me. Couldn’t possibly work - could it?’ One writer I know throws rune stones when she runs out of plot and follows the direction the chosen stone points her in. How does she sort the ending? Throws the runes again I guess. So far no bolt of lightning has struck her dead and she’s never stuck on where to go next in her plot line. I couldn’t try that; no rune stones to hand.
Desperate, I decided to try pantstering.  Truth is stranger than fiction they say and I’ve proved it.  Out of my imagination poured all sorts of thoughts, witty dialogue, one dog and then another.  Oh no. This was going to be like a day of Facebook postings with dogs and cats everywhere.  Luckily the cats stayed away and the story raced off on a tangent. Another endearing character appeared, drawn slowly to life as his dialogue added to the word pictures and revealed more of himself. He even managed to describe and name the breed of one of the dogs! I hadn’t thought of doing that either.
This time I want to write a full length novel. Not an easy thing for me, because I always seem to end up with a novella of reasonable length, but just shy of a novel word count. I think I’ve found the answer.  Pant-ster-ing is giving me a much larger word count. I may have to kill off a character or two, even one of the dogs. I’ve stopped worrying about what I’m going to write tomorrow, because I don’t know. What I do know is that when I sit, hands poised, my brain will switch on and my imagination will click into creative mode. I become the conduit for the words to trickle out onto the keyboard. I don’t say ‘that’s too crazy’ and press backspace.  I don’t growl about all the was’s, just’s and so's that fall out of my fingers. I can delete them later. All I want is words; words that equal story bones and characters .
What bliss. I’ve been converted.  I’m a pantster for as long as it takes to reach a plot point in my planned novel.  Then again, I may never reach that point, but it doesn’t matter. I can always transfer that story point to the next novel. This one might have more exciting plot points.
 Give it a go. Become a pantster – it really works and it doesn’t hurt at all. When you’ve filled the gap in your story you can go back to being a serious plotter. No one will ever know how you filled in the gaps, unless you tell them. Curses, in my excitement I’ve typed up over 500 words when I should have been adding to my novel.  The contest organizer will never know. I’ll just include this total in this week’s word count. I typed these 668 words by the pantster method.