In the writing community, people loosely identify as either a plotter or a pantser (sometimes spelled pantzer). Some people plot out an entire book before they write it, and others fly by the seat of their pants.
Here is what I said recently on a writer’s board:
I was going to stand up and be counted with the pantsers, but I realized it’s probably not entirely true. At the bottom of my working document is a couple paragraphs of “and then this happens.” Not really paragraphs, almost bullet points.(For example, the WIP – paranormal erotic romance, and I’m 6K words in – the plan currently says “Reunion sex. Next day road trip (his car). Estate sale. Dirty, ask discount. Saleslady strange – young/old. Looks through M., then agrees.”)
I don’t always stick to it – sometimes things happen to the characters while I write, and entire subplots bloom or die. I change the “and then this happens section” whenever the story changes. After I write a scene, I delete the item from the plan. So when I finish writing the reunion sex, I’ll erase that line and start writing the road trip… unless the heroine pulls a muscle during the reunion sex and decides to surf eBay instead of being active. ;) Then I’ll change the plan to read “eBay. Looks dirty. Asks discount. Seller has same name as M’s great great grandmother.”
Doing it that way means I almost never get writer’s block. I always have a plan for what’s going to happen next, and even if the writing is pure torture and I end up trashing it later, *something* gets on the page.
One of these days I’m going to copy the original two or three paragraph blurb just to see how drastically it changes from concept to completion :P
As usual, the cherry on top came from another writer, a person I only know as “Tiff.” She suggested people like us be known as… plotzers.
My Jewish grandmother would have laughed. I sure did. Other writers rock!
Right now I’m cobbling together a living from a handful of small jobs. I am trying to find a single large job that will replace the income. It’s not six of one, half a dozen of the other – switching between jobs, manager styles, project needs, writing voice, tracking systems, reporting systems, and all that other stuff takes time. If I have one job and not six jobs, I will have twice as much time in my day. I know this from experience – I finished two manuscripts when I only had one job, and for the last month, I’ve made painfully slow progress on several stories, one of which is begging me to finish already.
An opportunity to do some tech writing came up, and honestly, it would pay so much better than my professional blogging, so I’d love to land the gig. The contact person asked me to dig up all of my product reviews from the last few years. Five minutes with Google, right? Twenty minutes later, I was still digging for the best one, the crown jewel of my reviewing career. The magazine that published it was out of business, but they’d had it on their website, and it had been so widely quoted and linked that surely there was a cache. Right? Wrong.
There are pictures of me weighing twenty pounds more than I do now. Things I have said off the cuff are in forum signature files all over the internet and they come up when you Google my (other) name. There are video clips of me doing unfortunate things with thumb drives at trade shows. And yet this ONE THING I really want, the thing that makes me look witty and incisive and well-informed? Gone like a fart in the wind.
I used to sit around and complain that gosh darn it, I’m a good writer, I could write books if only I had ideas. Then I would read books and interviews with authors, and see them say stuff like “the idea is the easy part.” One of them even said that her pet peeve was people writing in to say “I had this idea. Write the book and we’ll share the profit!” Now, while sharing the profit seemed silly, the concept of the idea being worthless seemed somehow unfair. And the idea wasn’t the easy part. My ideas all made for interesting first paragraphs and painted themselves into corners (or turned out to be complete ripoffs of whatever fantasy series I was reading at the time).
Now that I have actually finished manuscripts, I’d like to travel back in time and just whack myself over my silly, clueless little head. I wasn’t a writer. I was an idiot with a fairly decent grasp on the mechanics of writing. A brain used to writing breeds ideas. The first idea I had for a story that actually came with a middle and an ending wasn’t bad, but while I was in the middle of the writing, I had another idea. I opened a text file and pinned down that wild idea like a rat in a trap on the spot because I thought I’d never have another idea again. As soon as I finished the first story, I started writing the second. While I was writing the second, I came up with a handful of new ideas. While I was writing the third, I came up with a dozen ideas, two of which were so exciting that I abandoned the work in progress and started writing them instead.
The problem now is discipline. Put the ideas into the text file, and finish something. (Robert Heinlein again – you must finish what you write!) I’ve got enough ideas in the idea file to keep writing for the next ten years at my current pace, but the new ideas won’t stop coming. I haven’t yet had any ideas like wizard boarding school or angsty emo high school vampires, but who knows what’ll pop out of the fountain spout next.
There are some unwritten rules in erotic romance that I’m okay with following. The heroes are always well-hung, for example. TOTALLY okay with that rule.
But there are other “rules” that don’t sit so well with me. Hair, for example. Real men have hair. They have it on their faces, backs, chests, and bellies. I don’t go out of my way to describe a hairy back, mind you, although I personally like it (there, I said it) but all of my heroes have chest hair – crisp, curly chest hair that holds the scent of soap and warm skin – and that hair gives my heroines tactile pleasure.
I was just reading a study where women’s preferences can be correlated to local health. In areas where the overall community health is bad, women dig men with lots of hair, thicker bones, visible musculature. In areas where community health is good, women go for thinner bodies, more delicate features, and less to no hair. The conclusion is that the heavily apparent secondary sexual characteristics are survival markers – denoting men whose genetic health gives them an advantage in an environment without a lot of available interventions.
I wouldn’t want any man who couldn’t defend me during the zombie apocalypse. Some of my heroes are gentle, kind of nerdy men, but they’re still men capable of kicking ass, taking names, and lifting heavy things. My guys don’t just act like alpha men – they look like alpha men. That means hair. Down with waxing! Up with surviving the apocalypse!
I needed two of my characters to not have sex. Fear of pregnancy is certainly a very good reason. I thought about having my heroine count the days, but just for giggles, and by giggles I mean “because I am a hopeless research nerd,” I looked it up to make sure the Victorians knew about that tidbit.
Women didn’t know about counting the days from one’s last period to determine the fertile window until the 1920s.
This was made worse by the fact that condoms were not widely available, and in some places only sold to married men.
You don’t think about just how liberating birth control was, just how great a degree of freedom is conferred by managing one’s own fertility, until you get smacked in the face with it. I have never known a time when I couldn’t just bop into 7/11 for condoms, or wander into a clinic and emerge with birth control pills, or at bare freaking minimum count days and say, eh, the curse starts tomorrowish so we’re probably clear. Also, while the consequences to getting pregnant unintentionally and outside of marriage would have had a massive impact on my life, I would not have had to cope with any societal disapproval, nor would my single mother status have any impact on my ability to be employed or rent an apartment.
What an impact this would have on a sexual relationship!
This is why good historical fiction isn’t “girls like us but in costume.” Some aspects of being a woman are universal across time and space, but other things are so anchored in context as to be meaningless without it. I hope I’m up to the challenge…
I can’t use the c-word in daily conversation.
Side note: As a young theater major, I had to take acting classes even though my intent was to be a director. In Acting I, there was an exercise we did before reading through plays with “dirty” language. Bear in mind the average age in the class was 18 and therefore a healthy percentage was still inclined to giggle over saying “penis.” Also, thanks to the rampant prudery of a minority terrorizing everyone threatening this and banning that, most high schools put on shows that might have been risque fifty years ago. I mean, my own high school did Blithe Spirit, Arsenic and Old Lace, and Hello Freaking Dolly. Edgy stuff. So anyway, to get us on track to handle any kind of language, we would chant certain words until they were just… words. The first uttering of “penis” traumatized the fluttery little southern belle I sat with. The twentieth, she was empowered, with “PENIS!” roaring forth. The fiftieth, she was as bored as I was.
I couldn’t say the c-word without horror even if I said it a million times.
That was awhile ago, but I’ve still got the hangup. In my stories, I say pussy, mainly. As I think I’ve said before on this blog, I’ll use the c-word for a particular effect, either to say something about the male or to show the female’s state of mind. But I avoid using it as a general word.
So, working on the steampunks, I’ve been pulling out my Victorian erotica, doing web research, and so on, to make sure I’m not using anachronistic language.
The c-word is period correct, as well as the variation “cunny.” As a matter of fact, the c-w0rd has an extensive pedigree, whereas “pussy” is really a vulva-come-lately of terms.
I learn something every day around here.
When I’m putting my toddler to bed, I use the time to think about my stories. Basically, it takes close to an hour, the room is dark, I can’t read or take notes… so I think things through and then race to the computer to type it all out as soon as he’s asleep.
The last three nights, I’ve had a particular image stuck in my head. There’s a man in his forties. He’s hiding a briefcase in an old house. Then he writes a note. The scene cuts to a nice house in a different neighborhood. Kids playing in the yard. Two police office come up. The lady of the house answers, covers her mouth in horror at what she hears. Cut scene to the first house. She’s cleaning things up, throwing out most of what she finds. She finds the briefcase. Inside is a whole hell of a lot of money.
Since I am working on an erotic steampunk, and I don’t write thrillers, you can see why this mental image isn’t doing me any good. I hope writing it down here will be like it is with song lyrics, whereby sharing it will get it stuck in someone else’s head.