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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Craft of Writing

I used to be a pantser. No, that doesn't mean I went around jerking down people's pants and exposing their hineys to embarrass them. It means, I wrote by the seat of my pants, just flew into the wind and wrote whatever came to mind for my characters and that's what happened next. Just so you know, pantsers are often known to paint themselves into a corner, even though they start off with what they think is a thoroughly great story idea. Hey, it happens.

Then... I learned about a marvelous, and hair-pulling, little thing called "craft of writing."

Now, I'm a plotter (and, yes, oft-times plodder). Now, my story must have an inciting event, a first turning point, a black moment, a happy and satisfying resolution, etc. etc. There also must be solid goals, motivation, and conflict (both internal and external) for both my primary characters, and sometimes even a couple of the secondary players. And all the goals (ideally) must somehow conflict. All of which sometimes makes me wonder if there are any sane people writing genre fiction.

Ahhhhh!!! (that was a scream, in case you're wondering.

Okay. Plotting aside, let's move on to craft itself. Now, when I begin a new manuscript, everything I've learned about the craft of writing a novel all leaps out at me and starts screaming to be heard. Sometimes the din is so loud and confusing, I can barely think, much less string together a coherent sentence. There are soooo many things to remember and constantly think about.

  • Have I started in the right place?
  • Am I bringing out the emotion?
  • Are my characters sympathetic, someone a reader would care about?
  • Am I showing, rather than telling? Which goes hand in hand with, is my writing immediate? Does it pull the reader into the scene?
  • Am I using all five senses to add detail and texture?
  • Am I using active verbs?
  • Am I upping the stakes? Must keep upping the stakes!
  • And what about sexual tension? Good Lord! I need to go back and layer in some more tension!

Arrrhhhhhhh!!! (yes, that was another acream -- more like a roar)

(taking a deep, relaxing breath) Ahh, the joys of writing. Sometimes I long for the good old days when I wrote simply for the fun of it, wrote from pillar to post, whatever popped into my head, and hoped it all worked out.

There is some good news in all of this. Yes, craft does drive me nuts sometimes, especially when I'm beginning a new manuscript. But once I get into it, and settle into my rhythm, it all turns into second nature and just falls into place as if by instinct. Lovely. And the best part is, I never paint myself into a corner anymore. I know where I'm going before I begin because I have a plan. So, it's all good.....

And in case you're wondering.... Yes, I've just started a new manuscript and I'm in that insane place where the craft is all screaming at me to pay attention, and I'm wondering if my narrative has started to sound choppy because I'm slipping in and out of deep pov within the same paragraph, and I'm sweating pulling off a heroine with a handicap without having her come across as an object of pity to a reader, and I'm wondering if my hero can get away with some of the things I have planned for him because the heroine is handicapped. And I'm wondering why I even chose to write a heroine with a disability, but, damn, it makes for some great conflict!

I love writing. I Love You



  1. Yay!! I'm glad you're getting back into writing.

    And by the way---even with what little you revealed about your new one, I'm already intrigued!

    Go Devon, Go Devon! :D

  2. Thanks so much, Taryn! I'm very glad, and relieved, to be writing again. Had some personal stuff to sort through, but I hope that's behind me. As they say, "Onward..."

    The ms. I'm working on has been on the far back burner for a long time. It just didn't work. So, I made some big changes to the plot. Writing a heroine who's less than physically perfect is daunting and I've been reluctant to tackle it, to tell you the truth. But if I can pull it off, I think it will be a good story. And the new plot twists add the conflict that was missing before.

    Thank you for stopping by! You're always so upbeat and I appreciate you more than you know. :o)

  3. Hi Devon-

    I'm dying to know what your character's handicap is. And are there any familiar characters from Angel in the Rain in your WIP?

    I am also a reformed pantser. Well, okay, semi-reformed. I still love to write freely without giving any thought to those issues of craft you mentioned in your blog. I find that as I learn more about writing craft, the techniques tend to resonate into my writing without my knowledge.

    Were you a plotter or a prantser while writing Angel in the Rain?

  4. Hi Jacquie!

    Thanks for stopping by! The new ms. is a total separation from AITR, although I do have plans for future for a sequel to Angel in the Rain where I pick up the story with their daughter, Ilsa Maria, as a young woman. :o)

    As to your question about being a pantser when I wrote Angel... wow, where to begin? LOL!

    I consider Angel in the Rain to be my learning "how to write" book. I wrote the original ms. before I knew anything at all about craft. The original was 170K wds. (yes, really) and I'd made every mistake a beginning writer can make.

    I completely rewrote the ms. at every plateau of my learning process, until it ended up being what you saw when you read the book. I think I worked so long and rewrote so much, it turned into a matter of pure stubbornness. :o) I had to see it published, some kind of pay-off for all that work.

    Although I hope I learned my lessons well and won't repeat those beginner mistakes, I still don't plot anything down to a gnat's patoot. I make sure I have all the big elements, (beginning, middle, end, solid gmc) but I still like to wing it when it comes to all the in-between stuff. If everything was all nailed down too tightly before I even began, I'm afraid I'd get pretty bored with it. I like surprises. And sometimes the characters or a situation will pop up with something great that I would have never thought of if I'd intentionally tried. :o)

    Nice to see you here! Congrats on your contest final, and good luck with your recent submission!


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