Wednesday, August 5, 2009

To Pants or Plot

That is indeed the question for many writers: Are you a Pantser or a Plotter?

In the very beginning I was a total pantser, I'd get a little glimmer and I'd be straight into it. But it wasn't working very well for me; most of my stories tended to fizzle at about 10K. After an enlightening workshop with writer Peter Temple (thank you, thank you) I found out that planning what came next and how it ended could help. I started working out which ideas weren't going to fly and finding a plot for the ones that would, and finishing manuscripts.

Fast forward a few years and I now have a crit partner who is a veritable Outline Queen, so I've learned some even better tricks from her. My current method runs something like this: idea, premise, GMC, story arc, scene list, examine all of the aforementioned for holes, tweak as needed, start writing, realise I still need to think and plan some more, tweak outline, continue writing, repeat as needed.

Sounds a bit random, still, doesn't it? The difference is that now I'm usually only a few thousand words into the ms when I'm doing the major tweaking, and I no longer flame out at 10K.

The argument some pantsers have against plotting is that it kills the creativity, or takes all the fun and spontaneity out of the writing. I used to think that too, but I have a lot more fun when I'm writing with a clear idea where I'm heading. I particularly like a plan because on the days where it's all a bit hard and the words aren't flowing, I still know what comes next and I can get on with the job.

Even so, I've been a little reluctant to get into too much detail with the outline, partly because it feels like writing the book twice, but mostly because the best fun I have during writing is finding all the intriguing stuff along the way that really enhances the story.

However, it's truly amazing just how much more of this gold you uncover when you've done a lot of planning. The more thinking, considering possibilities and writing them up into GMC notes or scene outlines that I do, the more stuff I uncover as I write and the better it meshes in with what I already have. Neat, huh?

So, I reckon I'm a plotster. What about you?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Another good read

I just finished Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder.

Excellent reading, people. Terrific worldbuilding, fresh twists, great writing and plenty of conflict and danger.

Yes! Another one to go on the 'Worth the Hours' pile.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Stand and Deliver

I'm a long time reader of fantasy, of all kinds, although I've deliberately expanded my grazing range in recent years. For one reason or another, it's been a long time since I read a big fat satisfying fantasy epic that truly delivered on the promise of the back cover blurb. This happens to all of us at some point; my friend Erica has recently blogged about how disappointing it is when a book fails to make good on its promise.

But I can put you on to three books that live up to expectations: The Night Angel Trilogy (The Way of Shadows, Shadow's Edge & Beyond the Shadows) by Brent Weeks. These books deliver. I'm not guaranteeing you'll like them - tastes differ - but you won't feel let down by them. Compelling, gritty, fresh, sweaty-palms page-turning reading. And if you're a writer, even if you don't love them, they serve as a terrific lesson in how to crank up tension through escalating conflict.

What, you're still here? You could be on your way to the book store already.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


So here I am. Again. Everyone gets a do-over, right?

I could have kept going with ze old blog, but, well, I just didn't wanna. I wanted to have that sparkly spanking new start, where it's all fresh and exciting. Some of the stuff I'll be blogging about is shiny new material concerning previously untouched upon topics. And yes, some of it will be a return to stuff I've talked about before.

Writing will still be the through-line here; making words, that's what it comes down to. But I'll also range a little further afield, I suspect. There's the joys (ahem) of step-parenting, of taking up a new form of exercise (swimming laps), of learning to play a musical instrument (the cello) with almost no background in music. That music has been on my mind as well as new beginnings is evident from the title of this blog.

And you know, it's amazing how all these apparently random elements connect to each other. Learning to play cello has had an impact on my writing - can you imagine?

Stay tuned.