Pantser Slump

The greatest pleasure I derive from writing is also my greatest curse.

There are two general types of writers; plotters and pantsers.

Plotters are kind of the Type-A personalities of the writing world.  They have an idea, they plan out the characters, and lay out the plot line in great detail.  Then when they write all they have to do is connect the dots.

Pantsers are those who write “by the seat of their pants”.  They start with an interesting idea, a character, and they just write.  It’s a very organic process, they just see where the characters take them.  Planning is usually limited to a couple chapters ahead.

I am an unashamed pantser.  What drives me to write is curiosity.  Usually I start with a hook and I’m genuinely curious where the story is going to go.  How is the manly man going to react when he has to direct his daughter’s play?  I don’t know but I really want to find out.  Every story is a puzzle that I really want to solve.

As much fun as that is, it’s also my biggest hurdle towards becoming a novelist.

You see, as long as I don’t know what’s going to happen I’m hooked by my own story, but there’s always a point (around 80% done) when I figure out how it’s going to end.  I can see how the last little bit plays out.  The puzzle is solved but the draft isn’t finished.  Suddenly, I don’t have any motivation at all to finish the last 20% or so.  It’s work, it’s trudging, it’s painfully boring.

When I get bored, my attention starts to wander toward other story ideas, until I drop the original project and start something new.  The new project gets to about 80%, puzzle solved, and my attention starts to wander again.

Right now, I’ve got two books 80% finished and I’m struggling to maintain my focus on them instead of the flashier, new ideas that have been cropping up.  I really, really want to be a published author but there are so many difficulties that I never anticipated, this being one of many.

So, I desperately need to work on my writing discipline.  Not just in hours/words per day but in finishing what I start.  Even then, I can only imagine how painful it’s going to be to do the multiple cycles of revision to make the story readable.

I keep telling myself, “if it was easy, everyone would do it.”   Pantser or not, I’m working on it.

 

A little slow

I haven’t been spending much time on WordPress over the past few weeks.  I’m sure you can relate, sometimes life just gets busy.  And when life gets busy I prioritize, which in this case meant using what little free time I’ve had to work on things that are higher on the list.  For example, family, friends, and projects.

That said, I have some good news.  I’ve started work on my submission for Write Club Fight Club.

In case you haven’t been paying attention (shame!), Write Club Fight Club matches up two writers and provides a challenge.  The writers submit their work and readers vote on the best piece.  We have some interesting conditions placed on our fight, which can be found here. I’ve been paired up with N.J. Layouni, we’ve been scheduled to “fight” on October 2nd.  

I’ve been pretty psyched up for Write Club Fight Club ever since I heard about it.  So, you might think I jumped right into writing as soon as the matches and conditions were announced, that wasn’t the case though.  I was really busy and decided to let the ideas bounce around for a while.

Yesterday, I put fingers to keyboard and the story started to flow.  I’m excited, can’t wait to see where this all goes.

Stay tuned!

Writer’s Block

As though it needed explaining, here is the Miriam Webster definition:

“Writer’s Block: the problem of not being able to think of something to write about or not being able to finish writing a story, poem, etc.”

That’s kind of a bland definition, I tend to imagine writer’s block as an almost pathological fear of the blank page.  It’s an empty vessel, it needs to be filled, and yet nothing comes forth.

I have been fortunate so far in my writing so far that I have never suffered the dreaded condition.  Normally, I’m a pretty happy-go-lucky writer, just happy to be doing my thing.  However, I do have profoundly uninspired days.  Days where I have some idea where the story is going but it’s a grinding, painful experience to get the words out.

Those days are frustrating because not only is it difficult to write, but the writing itself comes across as uninspired as I feel.  It’s flat, boring, and the story only limps along.  I will later read those passages and think that maybe it would be better to delete them, put them out of their misery, rather than try and make something productive out of them.

I don’t really consider that writer’s block, just kind of a slow day.  Usually, I can push through those feelings, lose myself in the story, and after a while and regain my enthusiasm.

Today was one of those days.  I still got my pages out though, so I consider it one more small victory.

Pen and paper

edited-paper

I’m a little over 200 pages into my sci-fi adventure story and I’m already looking ahead to the daunting task of making it readable.  By making it readable I mean editing, because it’s going to need a lot of work.  I purposefully didn’t do much in the way of editing while I was writing because I wanted to get the whole story down before I started going through it.  Knowing myself, I probably would have gotten so bogged down by the revising that I would have gotten fed up with the project and never finished it (I’ve made that mistake before).

The longer the story gets the longer the process of making it readable will be.  For as long as it takes to write a page, editing and shaping that page will probably take twice as long.  At least.

As I’m thinking through this process, one thing keeps coming to mind: there’s no way I’m going to be able to edit this on a computer.

For the most part, I’m a Luddite when it comes to technology.  I’m interested in it only so far as it can improve my life, no further.  For example, writing on a computer is far faster for me than writing with a pen and paper, so I write on the computer.  It’s also far easier to edit and produce short works on a computer, like blog posts.  However, with longer pieces in the past I’ve always printed them out to edit them.

I’ve always edited on paper because being able to flip through the pages, make notations in the margins, put sticky notes on the important scenes, and physically hold the papers has been a vital part of the editing process.  So, I can’t imagine trying to edit this 200+ page story on a computer screen.  There’s no way.

Yet, printing out 200+ pages and going through them by hand -only to make the corrections on the computer and have to reprint the entire manuscript for the second phase of editing- seems incredibly wasteful and inefficient.

So, where’s the middle ground?  I’m thinking that I will end up doing as much of the editing as possible on the computer, spell check, grammar, etc.  Then when I’m through with the minor things, printing the manuscript and looking for the bigger changes.  It still doesn’t seem very efficient but I’m not sure how else to do it.

Is this something that other authors have faced?  If so, I would love to hear suggestions because I’m still very new to this and I’m already feeling a little intimidated.

 

**Photo from Curriculum Design for ELL**

The coolest thing I’ve ever seen

I had another post I was working on but this was just too cool to put off.  Seriously, probably the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.  It might not be all that big of a deal to anyone else, but it’s definitely high on my list.

Alright, I’ll start at the beginning.  A couple days ago I read a post about how Scrivener (the writing program I use) can format to different ebook types.  I started playing around with it and got really frustrated.  To format for Kindle you have to download the KindleGen program from Amazon, then go back and link Scrivener to the program before it’ll work right.  I’ll probably do another post specifically on that process later, it was kind of a pain.

So, I got all that set up and went back to trying to compile the manuscript for Kindle.  It asked what I wanted to put for the cover, so I messed around for a while and made up a draft cover.  I did the drawing by hand, edited it on the computer and did the formatting (1:1.6.  Best for Kindle is 2820 x 4500 according to their site, that’s what I used). Continue reading “The coolest thing I’ve ever seen”

Time vs Energy vs Words

The last few months, my writing routine has been knocking out between 20-30 pages a week.  I’ll grant that they aren’t quality pages, they’re mostly unedited, but I’m trying to get the drafts finished before I really dig into the editing process.

The last two weeks though, I’ve been working so much that when I get home I basically collapse on the couch.  Then, maybe watch a little TV and head to bed.  Last week I wrote about 15 pages and they were terrible.  I’ll probably end up tossing them rather than facing a grueling process of turning them into something readable.  This week… I’ve written maybe 5 pages.

Exhausting work, my writing’s kryptonite. Continue reading “Time vs Energy vs Words”

Started a new project

(Image from an interesting post on Good E Reads)

I hadn’t realized how tied up my brain is with my daughter’s book until last night.

I was really trudging through my writing time, just struggling to add a couple new pages to her story.  It wasn’t writer’s block, nothing that serious, but it was work.  The words were reluctant, difficult, and stubborn.  I got my pages done and then closed the word processor with relief.  Done for the day, whew.

But there was another document open. Continue reading “Started a new project”

Two Miles to Humility

(I wrote this right after it happened in 2008, I had plenty of time off my feet to work on it.  Enjoy!  WordPress didn’t like my formatting, so it’s a little off.)
Two Miles to Humility
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I’d like to think that I have reached the point in my life where there aren’t too many big life lessons left to learn.  However, it’s when you think you don’t have much left to learn that you end up being forcibly shown how little you actually know.
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My wife, Carrie, is an amazingly gifted woman.  I say this with some confidence because I’m fairly gifted and she is far more talented and gifted than I am.  When applying for a University, eight years after High School, I was required to retake the SATs.  I studied for two weeks and scored a 1390, two hundred points higher than I had almost a decade before.  I’ve learned through the years that given a little time and effort I can truly accomplish anything I put my mind to.  My wife, on the other hand, can match any accomplishment of mine almost instantly, and with little discernible effort.

Continue reading “Two Miles to Humility”

Welcome!

It’s been an interesting few months leading up to me starting this blog.

I’ve been a voracious reader and writer for many years now.  It started in High School when friends and I would exchange stories, usually horror stories that involved gory death scenes.

Since then, my problem has been that I get really excited about a project for a few weeks but then I get another idea.  The first idea gets shelved and I start working on the new one.  And repeat.  None of them ever made it past a couple dozen pages before another project came up or life got in the way.

Recently though, I started writing a story for my daughter.  She loves to read, so I thought it would be something fun to do.  She’s been the motivation that got me to dig into a single story and not let go.

It’s been a whole lot of fun and it’s really inspired me to get more serious with my writing.  There is so much more I want to learn about writing, publishing, and developing as a person and a writer.

J. M. Payer