Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Writer's Transformation

I always eschewed the idea of being a plotter. I was a rampant pantser, with no time to get bogged down in outlines, character sketches, planning, or any of that other stuff. I just wanted to write...and write...and write. While writing my first novel, Unladylike Pursuits, I found that that meant quite a number of rewrites, but other than having to reread and re-edit and review over and over and over again, it didn't bother me.

Four years later, and I'm only on book 2...writing and writing and writing. I'd say I've easily written 750 pages or more for this book. And yet I'm still going strong with fresh material that I feel good about. I finished my first draft with Candace Havens' Fast Draft, and since then I've gotten one long-distance critique partner (who's really working out well) and one local, ocassional C.P. who also has plenty of good insights. So I've been making changes, trying to trim and edit and hook and emote, and that's all been good, but now I'm really ready for the home stretch. Kids are in school, I can arrange for big chunks of time to work on the WIP, and I'm really gonna push.

I made an outline (my long-distance C.P.'s idea). It's numbered by chapter, and each chapter has a sentence or two or four about happens. I've color coded the sentences based on plot lines, and separated the chapters into Acts and Turning Points a la the Jenny Crusie/Bob Mayer
Writing Workshop
, and I'm thinking big, trying to keep it all in my head, referencing my handy-dandy print-out everyday. And so far, so good--it's working.

So...I think after I get that initial idea for a book, I really need to give into my pantser tendencies and do a Fast Draft, but then I need to step back and write the outline, the synopsis, the blurb, the one sentence idea--all of it--to make sure I know where I'm headed.

My first book was total trial and error--I wrote alone, with no help from workshops or conferences or RWR articles. And now, I learn new tricks, techniques, and ideas, and I'm trying something new all the time. Maybe on my next book, I'll finally settle into a zone. I really, really hope so.


Christine d'Abo said...

This is awesome Alyssa. My first book was so bad I don't think it will ever see the light of day. At least not init's current incarnation.

I find myself slowly drifting towards plotting more and more these days. Though I only do a little bit so I know where my major turning points are. And usually things change as I go along. But at least now when I get stuck, I have something to fall back on.

Beck said...

I'm dabbling at trying to write my first book and it is HARD!

Alyssa Goodnight said...

Yay, Beck! What sort of book is it? Are you planning/plotting or just seeing where the writing takes you...tell us, tell us!

Vicki said...

I just finished a plotting workshop through the FTHRW loop. It was pretty good. Now that I'm basically done with the move and back in the swing of things I'm going to try it out.

Plotting has been the hardest for me, partly because I love the moments when things happen that I wasn't expecting. :)

Mel said...

Your process sounds like mine so good luck.

~Virginia~ said...

Hmm, I'm not hip to the author-speak, but I can say that I admire how much work you put into writing...thinking of different strategies and such.

I've got your book in my mental shopping cart on (along with a couple other purchases)...I've been waiting for payday (every 1st of the month) to place the order! :) I can't wait to read it!

Oh! When you have a couple minutes to spare, I'd really appreciate your input on a little project of sorts that I'm working on...check out my blog for details, but I'd really like your opinion/suggestions! I think you'd come up with some really good ones! :)

Stacy said...

I'm a complete pantser, and could definitely use some organization. Congrats on your new organization skills.

Alyssa Goodnight said...

Thanks Stacy!

And how sweet are you, Virginia! Thanks so much!

Samara Leigh said...

I've always been a pantster, but would usually stall out toward the middle of the project. I experimented with plotting a few months ago and found that helped me keep moving on the project. I'm not a strict plotter, but I am getting there.

I participated in Fast Draft, too. It was a great experience. I got a lot of writing done and met some great women writers. I am currently participating in the Survivor Writer Challenge here: