Wednesday, October 7, 2009


The Hawaiian alphabet has only 12 letters

There really is one universal rule for writing that all writers agree to: BIC = Butt In Chair. At the end of the day, in order to produce your literary work of genius, you must actually sit and DO it.

Now, how you DO it, according to standard writerly belief, falls into two camps – either you are a Panster or a Plotter. The first group, the Pansters, sit down, crack their knuckles, and let it rip -- they allow their creative juices to roar forth, spilling onto the page. The characters in their head come alive and lead them down a merry path, unfolding the story as they go along. The second group, the Plotters, sit down and well, plot. They make outlines, bar graphs, charts, do character studies and perform extensive research.
Personally, I don’t think it’s that black and white – successful author are shades of gray in-between, lying either towards the Panster or Plotter part of the bell curve. You kind of need to have both in some degree - allow yourself to think freely, come up with amazing ideas… then create some form of structure that allows you get from beginning to end without falling off the deep end. Let me tell you, many a book has begun then wandered off into the dark woods, never to be heard of again.
I fall on Plotter end of the spectrum. Ideas percolate in my head all the time, and I take notes. I have random interest in various topics and I find that these ideas sneak into a story or character idea. But then, okay, so I’m a bit anal (it’s the accountant in me) I make dozens of spreadsheets outline chapters, develop character types, generate subplots and jot down critical elements. One of my favorite things to do is research. I love finding out the history, back-story and details of what I’m writing about, and although I may only use 5% of it in my book, the journey of discovering new information is immensely satisfying. BUT I’m always open to change, so if my character decides he is now a girl instead of a boy, or the plot needs a radical twist, I accommodate it into my outlines.

All writers have their strengths and weaknesses. Some create haunting, beautiful scenes – ones you literally fall into when you open their book. Others create passionate, multifaceted characters you love, hate, admire, love and related to. Some can’t plot to save their lives, others can plot but can’t find their voice (oh that mysterious thing that I still can’t figure out either.) My strength may be organization and plot development, but my greatest weakness, alas, is my grammar. I was an Accounting and Business major in college and took, like, one comparative writing class. I still don’t know what a dangling participle is. But the good news is that I have an excellent critique group with two English majors who sort me out. Plus my amazing editor of course (poor her). So the trick is to know what your good at, work hard at what you aren’t, and find a great critique group, or partner, who can point out your genius as well as your inadequacies.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad to hear other people do enormous amounts of research that may not get used. Now I don't feel so guilty! It's fascinating to see how other people work. I love that you do spreadsheets, because I aspire to that, but already know I will never get there.