Sunday, July 10, 2011

Let the Great Experiment Begin!

I am a pantser. This means that I sometimes really struggle with transforming an idea into anything resembling a finished draft. I get distracted by Shiny New Ideas, and exchange them as often as Hugh Heffner exchanges his women. I do prefer my Shiny New Ideas to be at least 90% organic material, however.

Anyway, the other week I had a really great Shiny New Idea. It started off as a trashy romance, but it always had more potential than that. There was something underneath, something unexpected that came through in the narrator’s voice that demanded more attention than that. It was far more angry and sarcastic and vulnerable than a romantic character needed. It had Potential. This, I thought, will be better as dystopian YA spec fic.

But, I thought ten minutes later when the inspirational glow had faded, I’ll need to do it properly. No more pantsing. No more rushing. If you like this character so much, treat him with some respect.

I needed help. I needed someone methodical enough to hold me back before I dived in, made a mess, and then decided it was too much bother in the first place. I needed the sort of person who makes lists. I needed the sort of person who makes lists of what lists she needs to make. Really.

I needed my big sister Kath.

Me and Kath. A long time ago.*
Kath isn’t a writer, but I think she can be. She’s an avid reader, she’s got a great imagination, she’s a better speller than I am, and she’s a high school English teacher -- I’m already expecting her to hook us up with some beta readers in the right age group. I ran this by her expecting rejection.

Startlingly, she agreed. Maybe I caught her at a weak moment, but that doesn’t matter. She’s in now!

So far she’s read my sample chapters, liked them, and offered some useful criticism. I like the non-linear narrative, she wrote in the margin. I thought, Oh, is that what it’s called? Cheers. I’ve sent her home with a CD  of appropriate scene-setting music, some character sheets to fill out, and a careless mention of “Oh, and if you want to outline the plot, that would be awesome.”

Our real test will come in a few days when I actually force her to put pen to paper, but I think she’s up for it. And, in the meantime, discussing every step with another person has forced me to slow down the out-of-control-trolley-car-with-no-brakes-and-people-screaming-going-down-a-hill that is my usual style of writing. I mean, it’s a hell of a ride, but it always ends in carnage.

I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, in the words of the illustrious Tobias Funke: Let the great experiment begin!

* This was the only photo I could find where I wasn't scowling. Or where I hadn't just given myself a haircut. 


  1. I got a shiny new idea, too and I just realized that when I get around to it, I better not rush it either. Good luck, I can't wait to hear how it goes! :D

  2. I'm a pantser too, but I go really slowly. I'm not a mad rush sort of writer. More of a meanderer.

    I wonder if your sister knows what she's gotten herself into?

  3. I hope you realize though your sister is acting as a crutch for your transition to plotter. Might be helpful for you to be with her when she fills out those forms so you get a feel for doing it yourself. Being a plotter though doesn't always mean filling out endless forms and knowing everything in advance.

    For me I'm a plotter simply because I have an outline and the ending all figured out. Not the end of the world if stuff changes during writing.

  4. Very cool that you're going ahead with this. Especially 'cause this is one book of yours I'll be able to read. =)

    And yay for older sisters! Do you think I could like borrow her sometime? Older brothers (or at least mine) just won't do the trick.

  5. Thanks, Madeline! Good luck with your shiny new idea as well!

  6. LG, I doubt she has any idea. Mwahahahah!

  7. Too true, Steph! Although, what happened was I wrote the questions for the forms and printed them out, and by the time the last one spooled out of the printer I was already bored with the idea. And that's my main problem! Instead of sitting down and filling them out, I thought: "Nah, I'll just write another chapter and see what happens." It turns out I really liked what happened, but now I can't remember what colour eyes my main character has. Hopefully it won't come up again. ;)

  8. MC, big sisters are great, as long as you can forgive them for that time you got caught in the middle of a dog fight and she ran and screamed instead of saving you. Or maybe that's just mine...

    And yes, this will hopefully be something I won't blush to share! Although, now I'm worried that I've already used too many rude words. Still, that's what editing's for, right?

  9. Thank you for having me, Margo. Now, if you'll just point me to where I can collect my cape and minions...

  10. That sounds like it's going to be a killer story! Good luck. I always thought Co-writing was so hard, but it's probably easy when its your sister

  11. Hi Brit! On some levels co-authoring with my sister should be easy. I mean, we can communicate very easily and have a history of shared experiences and values etc. Although part of me thinks that might just work against us: "No! This is just like that time in 1985 when you cut off my Barbie's hair, you bitch!"

    It will be interesting, whatever happens!

  12. Jen, I think this sounds like an amazing experiment! It will be most interesting to see how this unfolds if/when deadlines aren't met or there are disagreements. Not saying there will be, but just in case. Either way, I look forward to reading more about this!

  13. Thanks TL. I'm sure it will test our relationship, but hopefully we're both old enough to separate the personal from the professional. But we shall see!

  14. lol... you are so cute. Sounds like your sis knows what she's talking about. How cool is that?? I'm a total plotter, and I admit, it takes some of the fun out of writing that first draft, BUT it comes together so quickly after I outline and character sketch. I can take two months or more plotting, and then after it's marinated enough, I can write the first draft in a month or less. It's amazing how quickly it all happens. Then, of course, the following year is spent revising, but hey.... that's just the way it goes. :)

  15. Thanks, Pk! Yeah, Kath knows her themes, her characterisation, her novel structures and all of that stuff. I guess when I say I'm a pantser I mean that I do most of the marinating in my head. And probably way too quickly, since I always run out of steam after a few chapters. If I had a plan to turn to, it would be a great help. That's why we're doing this properly!



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