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!