Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Plotters vs Pantsers...writing styles

Well, I’m happy to say, Velma’s sojourn at the spa will be over this weekend and she’ll be returning home, all topped up and batteries charged. (Actually, it was a new battery, but you know what I mean.) Velma is my car for any of you who have not read previous posts.

Not having the car, I was basically house bound, except for the one trip to the grocery store with my daughter.

I should have been able to get a lot done, and I did if you count 15,000 words into the new book a lot of ‘done’. The words don’t reflect the amount of time I spent doing online research, (which if you looked at my ‘history’ would look a bit scary), and rewrites.

Normally my writing style would be described as being a ‘plotter’, rather than a ‘pantser’ a fly by the seat of your pants writer. That means that I usually plot my story line from beginning to end and do in depth characterizations, I research for authenticity, things like locations, careers and if it’s a murder story, details of how to conduct a police investigation.

If I were a ‘pantser’, I’d do all of that as I went along.

As you may gather from all this, I tend to be a bit rigid in my set up. (I prefer rigid to anal retentive.)

Last fall, my son and his wife gave me a very interesting phrase, thinking it sounded like a book title. I agreed. “Where the forest meets the corn” was the phrase. It was hunting season, and that’s exactly where they were sitting. As I was knee deep in my NaNoWriMo novel, I let the phrase percolate in the back of my mind.

Once Christmas was over I was ready to write. All I had in preparation was the idea that a murder had occurred…..drum roll please….where the forest meets the corn. I wanted the murder victim to be a young woman; and the body would be found by a man out walking his dog. The season was winter, as I always start a book in the same season I’m experiencing. An odd quirk, I know.

So, I had three chapters written before I even had my main characters named, the name of the town, or any other details.

I began with my victim leaving work one snowy night, finding her tire flat, and accepting a ride home from someone she thinks looks familiar but doesn’t really know. She’s being trusting because she’s mad at being stranded, and the stranger seems to know her, her dad and where she lives. It’s no surprise her faulty judgement will end up getting her killed.

The next chapter was the farmer, looking for his lost dog, and finding a dead body instead.

Of course the farmer calls 911 and the investigation begins.

So now what? Where are my notes, my characters, my locations, my ever loving details? Who writes like this? OK, my friend Carol writes like this, but maybe it’s different if you’re writing fantasy rather than murder.

I’ve been making notes like mad, now that I’ve begun. I figured out who the killer is, an important detail, and why he did what he did. I found my strong male lead, Gage Donovan, named Gage for his mother’s maiden name. He’s the detective on the case.

I have notes on the victim’s family, potential other victims, the killer’s story, and the location. Once I started making notes I had to go back to the beginning because not all of it fit anymore. I had made the victim seem like a nice person, and she wasn’t. So I had to change a few things, make her not quite so likeable.

Part of my routine is to reread what I have written, at least the last chapter, to get back into the story before I start writing. This means I edit as I go along, I just can’t stop myself.

I swear, I’ve written and rewritten those 18,000 words so many times, I don’t want to go over them again. Not until it’s all said and done and I edit for real.

At Christmas, my son and I were driving across the county road, when I suddenly called out. He of course thought something was wrong. But we had just passed a cornfield with a wooded area, and I wanted a photo, for inspiration.

He not only backed up, he turned around so I could take the pictures from the passenger window. What a great kid, eh?

I’m not sure I can handle the whole “pantser’ thing. I need a bit more preparation than that. But I kind of like having the story evolve as the characters become real to me and I get invested in their lives.

Gage is a nice guy, dedicated, but a loner. He needs someone in his life, and I have just the woman for him. It should be interesting.

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