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Confession: I am a pantser

I’ve hit the wall, thrown in the towel, given up on my Camp NaNoWriMo project. Oh, I still plan on completing my novel “Claire”—just not in July. If I believed in writer’s block, I’d have to say this is what I am experiencing. But I know deep down I’m just being plain lazy. And that I set too ambitious a goal.

After all, it is summer and we did just buy a Jeep. A toy that we have gotten maximum pleasure out of in the few weeks that we have owned it, tooling around the scenic roads of Vermont and New Hampshire every available evening, anxious to stumble upon some wildlife, or, absent that, feel the freedom of the wind blow through our (my) hair, removed from the necessities of mowing the lawn and painting the trim on the house. And working on “Claire.”

John, our group’s facilitator, has requested (“suggested”—too passive) that I bring in an outline of the book to the next writing group meeting in two weeks. I readily agreed. Deadlines are my allies. And the outline is half-written anyway. Which may be my source of writer’s block. Assuming I believed in it.

I am a “pantser.” I start writing with a germ of an idea for my work of fiction and then I write. I usually don’t have an outline when I start—that would make me a “plotter.” I prefer for my plot to evolve organically. (I just learned that there are also “plantsers.”)

I’m not alone in this approach. But the plotters will tell you that this only makes more work for us pantsers in the long run, that I’ll need to write a few rough drafts to be where they are after their first rough draft.

Hang in there—I’m getting to my point….

Which is that for Camp NaNoWriMo I decided to write more like a plotter than a pantser, outlining before adding to the 10,000 plus words I had already written for “Claire.” Seemed like more than a good idea. More like a necessity. After all, this is the first book in a trilogy and a thriller. That worked. For a while.

Now that I have a half-finished outline, I’m unable to get back to the story and write. Or even finish the outline. So I’m stuck. Writer’s block. Lesson learned: I am definitely a pantser. What I really want to do is just write the damn book.

I’m relying on my writing group to jump-start my writing. Bring it on!!

Meanwhile, I’m waiting for July 31 so that I officially can announce that I did not win Camp NaNoWriMo 2015.

Write About What You Are Afraid Of

Advice for writers: write about what you are afraid of. I’ve never been very good at that. In fact, when things have happened to me that nightmares are made of (hitting a pedestrian with my company car, getting adrenal cancer, to name a few) I can’t write. I won’t write. I avoid recording my thoughts and emotions, even just the facts. Maybe that’s why I took two memoir writing classes, to find a way to break through that wall. Yet I still have no desire to write about what I fear. Possibly that will develop as I grow as a writer.

This week I read Laura Moriarty’s book, “The Rest of Her Life,” about a teenage girl who hits and kills a pedestrian in a crosswalk. I was interested in how another author would approach this topic, especially from the driver’s perspective. Moriarty focused more on the relationships among the family members and how they all dealt differently with the accident. I didn’t get what I wanted from the novel. But that’s what happens when you read a book, especially fiction. You get what the author wants to give you.

Cancer. If I wanted to write about my experience with adrenal cancer I’d be competing with a multitude of other cancer books. I doubt if I have anything new to contribute. Even if I did, I still have no desire to write about it.

I want to write about people who don’t exist. Whose lives I have made up and control. Whose lives do not resemble mine. In other words, books and stories I would want to read, characters I could engage with, who entertain me but don’t mimic me. I can’t engage with myself. Do other writers?

Woman in Gold

Woman in Gold

Yet there is one story that I play a minor role in that both piques my interest and frightens me, the story of my German heritage through my mother. We have both Nazis and Jews for relatives; anyone who knew about the Jews is long gone. My mother, though Christian, lost two brothers during World War II. They got on a train and my mother’s family never saw them again. Watching the movie “Woman in Gold” this morning not only brought me to tears, it also resurrected my need to know more about the German history of my family. I must hurry—my mother is 87. This is a story I want to write although it has been written before. But this one would be for me.

 

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