As I said last Wednesday, today’s post isn’t going to be me waffling on about something, but from the fingers of James Tallett.
The post that I’ve written for the Plotter vs Pantser series is on James’ blog, so you’ll have to pop over there to find out what I’ve written on the subject…
I hope you enjoy James’ words!
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So, I’m a plotter, nominally. This means I am supposed to be more organized than a pantser, or at least I believe that’s the notion. Now, in the matter of the actual writing, I believe that’s the case. I have, for The Four Part Land, all the information categorized into folders, and indeed built an encyclopedia about the world before the first story was written in it.
Unfortunately, that level of organization doesn’t carry over quite so well to the writing life. A quick jaunt through my current WIPs would be Chloddio (edits/rewrites), Breaking an Empire (edits), Laeccan Waters (first draft), Splintered Lands (first draft and edits), Ancient New (first draft and edits), Our Land (first draft), and assorted flash fiction and short stories that are in various stages of editing or drafting. So, I like to keep my mind busy.
With that said, I do focus my main efforts onto a single novel or novella until such time as that particular work is finished. So, I’m currently writing the first draft of Laeccan Waters, and while I will write a variety of flash pieces and short stories between now and the end of August (the expected finish date), I will not be working on Chloddio, Breaking an Empire or Our Land. If I don’t do that, I get so distracted that it takes forever for a single book to finish. As it is, I seem to be able to manage one major novel plus assorted other projects in a year, which is a fast enough pace for me.
One thing I don’t do, and something I know more organized writers take advantage of, is self-set deadlines. I’ve tried them, and they just don’t stick. Indeed, they see me coming, dive off the side, and swim for shore. Now, if someone else made the deadline, be it a contest or NaNoWriMo, I’ll make it, even if I have to sit on the couches between classes at school on the last day to make the deadline. But ones I made myself? They have all the staying power of damp tissue paper in a strong breeze.
I’m even relatively easy to distract from my plots, in as much as I never actually follow them entirely. Oh sure, the main points all get hit. After all, I like writing big battles way too much to skip out on those, and if I don’t hit the main points, the story goes all sorts of flobbery in the middle. But the side details, even the ones I put into the plot? They get ignored as soon as they hit the page. I just write, knowing what the end of each chapter has to be, and the characters tell me how they want to get there. And if they want to get there by swimming across a harbour in the middle of the night being shot at by arrows, then that’s their right, although I’ll call them idiotic twerps later on.
And sometimes, characters want to die. They want to perform a screaming bellyflop off a high tower, or a noble death in self-sacrifice after trying to kill someone by flipping over his head with a sword. And because of that, characters in Laeccan Waters are dead. Not my plans, not in my plot, but they stood up, shook my hand, and walked off the page.
Am I going to let them stay dead? I have no idea, but if I really liked them a lot, I just might perform some necromancy. And if they don’t like it, well, tough on the characters. Characters get to make the little decisions, but damnit, if I like them enough, they are not dying on me forever. I didn’t spend 100k words building them up to have them walk off in the middle of scene six.
And look at that. I was supposed to be talking about distraction and I ended up talking about characters. And I even had an outline for this post.