While listening to Brandon Sanderson’s first lecture for the 2013 summer writing course, I learned a better term for being a pantser. Now if you don’t know, in the writing world (and I suppose my beading could be considered this too) a pantser is a writer who begins with a character or idea and writes to see where it goes. Or writing by the seat of your pants. Mr. Sanderson calls this, a discovery writer.
I like that term. It fits with my writing style. I don’t use an outline, per say, just a general idea of certain points that need to happen. I really do discover the story as I write. Unexpected characters drop in. I get to learn interesting things about the characters. I don’t have to force the story to go a certain way. It is very flexible, though I don’t always know how to reach certain plot points. Sometimes those just get set aside until later or get worked into a different story.
My very first novel–which is trunked until I feel like renting a backhoe to fill in the plot holes–was definitely a pantser, or um discovery, project. I started at the beginning, had a few ideas for the middle and knew the ending scenes, but I had no idea what happened in between all that. I merrily wrote every day and finished it after about 3 years of fussing with it. Looking back that was actually fun but it will take quite a bit of work to get it polished and ready for publication.
But that’s the lessons we all learn with our first novels, short stories or novellas. And believe me, there is a LOT to learn.
I’ve written the first book of the Shattered Soul series. The working title is Dragon Masque. Right now it clocks in at about 95,000 words.
The second story is Tiger Eye, and while I’ve written the first chapter or so, I’m not sure I’m going to keep it. Even more important, I’m not sure how much I’ll keep of the first novel. And I’m really glad I haven’t spent a lot of time on edits.
You know why?
Because I’ve taken some time after writing Fear Bound to really explore the possibilities of this series. When I first started writing it, it was simple and straight forward. But now, there’s all of these twists and turns in the world outside the main character that affects what happens. There were things that I only vaguely understood when I wrote the first story. Things that were only alluded to, that make a difference in how the character acts and what decisions she makes.
And anyway, I’ve come up with some really neat ideas. Ideas that never occurred to me two years ago. It’s little things that have to happen in the first novel that have an impact on the second and so on and so forth. And I haven’t really put them into play yet. What am I saying? They aren’t even in the novel yet!
Ideas like this:
My MC needs an assistant–a handler (and if you know some obscure definitions of this phrase cudos to you)–so I’m going to introduce him in a novella and in later books, he betrays her. However, I’m considering the possibility that this assistant is nothing more than a mental projection of a infection of a particular kind of nanocreature/bot/thingie.
And things like the above is going to take careful planning not only because I need to foreshadow what is going to happen, but I need to make it somewhat obvious to the READER that this guy is all in her head but leave the main character in the dark–while her friends have some suspicions.
There are some other facets to the story that I’m discovering. Such as the overall plot of the series and how to work in bits of information without derailling what happens in an individual book.
I also had to fix what was a carbon copy of an organization in another author’s series. Not that it was intentional, because I had never read the Dresden files when I was cautiously drafting ideas five years ago, but now that I’ve had a chance to read and listen to a few of the books, I knew that had to change.
So now instead a copy of the White Counsil and Seven Laws of Magic, I now have a guild/union type of set up that endorses mages and employers. This change also has the added benefit of a side motivation– money or better yet, lack of money/employers for my character.
And while some of you might point to what I’ve just done and yell “Outliner,” it isn’t really the same. I don’t have a to do list with the story. I have ideas that I’ve explored, and want to try. None of this HAS to happen in order to create this story. I could pare it all down to the basics and tackle one element at a time.
But really why would I want to do that? There’s still too much to discover.