Musings of a Pantser!


Many times people ask me how to go about writing a novel. Some look at writing as such a daunting task. They think of outlining, plot structure, and word counts then instantly balk. “I can’t write 80k words!”

The thing is, you can do it. It doesn’t have to be hard. You just have to relax and not focus on the end result. That’s the single biggest thing that stops a new writer from finishing a story.

Back when I started writing Immortalis Carpe Noctem, I let that kind of stuff haunt me too. I felt I had to plot everything out. I worried if my chapters would be long enough and if I could really ever hit that magical word count to qualify as a novel.

It took me 5 years to finish Immortalis. Yeah, that is a long time, I know. But first novels can take a long time.

My problem was, I kept forcing myself into the little box of plotting out everything down to the smallest detail and then hating where the story went. I would try to force a chapter past its point, adding in too much unnecessary detail, because I felt each chapter needed to be a specific length.

Eventually, I set the manuscript aside, frustrated with it.

While I let that one settle, I allowed myself to “free write,” not caring if the story made sense or if it was ever going to be read by anyone.

You know what I found out?

The muse doesn’t like to be boxed in. At least mine doesn’t.

Some authors need that structure and that is great for them. Me, I needed freedom. And I’m willing to bet a lot of others need it too.

Once I realized that, I went back and finished Immortalis Carpe Noctem in a short time and started the crit and revision process. It was that “relaxing” and allowing my muse to speak without worry that helped me to finish my story.

So now, whenever I see a new writer saying, “Oh, I can’t write. It’s too hard.” I tell them the same thing. Just relax. Don’t worry about the end result. Get your story on paper the way you want it. After that, you can worry about “fixing” things. If you can’t get past the initial draft, you will never finish it and make your self frustrated.

Comments

Lorelei said…
My favorite quote is: "There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." W.Somerset Maugham

My problem is I have to reduce my word count. I've had whole books from what's left over. Sheesh!
Katie S said…
Better to have too much than not enough. You can always find stuff to cut in editing.
Jessica Nelson said…
A box is so boring. *grin*
Willsin Rowe said…
I like it both ways ;)

I tend to start out just pantsing it, but once I've gotten through a draft, I can see themes which need to be tied together and resolved, so I go over the structure. It's kind of like laying bricks for walls, and then putting in columns afterwards. Nice post, Katie, as usual.
Katie S said…
Yep Yep Willsin, that's exactly it. Free write the first draft then get down to business on the revisions and the next draft!

Jessica, you gotta think perpendicular to the box. If that doesn't work, then think adjacent to the box. =p