Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Indie Life / Writing Wibbles
One of the more fun things about being an indie writer is the forever-ongoing “plotter/pantser” debate. I haven’t run across anyone who takes it seriously, we’re just pretending to debate (or argue) the issue because it’s a good way to share a laugh with our friends. One of my friends in the pubished-writer camp is a dedicated pantser: “The one time I tried to do a detailed outline, I ended up not wanting to write the damned book, because in my head, it was finished.”
Me, I go both ways. I like to have an idea of how a story is going to end, but I don’t exactly demand that of myself before I start writing. I’ve plotted two stories. One is in slow progress, the other I haven’t started.
Have you ever been there? An opening scene typed up, and it’s pretty cool. Now if you could only figure out what happens next…
That’s when you should consider a technique that I call “Extreme Pantsing.” Like any “extreme” activity, it’s not for the faint of heart. But like the first time I jumped a speed bump on rollerblades, just going for it might bring success, and not trying at all is a guaranteed faceplant.
Extreme Pantsing works like this: you take that cool opening scene, clean it up, and post it on your blog. Tell all your friends on Twitter that you’ve started a serial, encourage them to read it and leave feedback. When Tuesday rolls around, add the link to the Tuesday Serial collector and make sure to mark it “DEBUT” (only for the first episode). Include the episode number and genre (if you can) in the title line, like this: Long Story, Episode 1 by Joe Bloggs - Litfic - DEBUT. Now you have an incentive to keep writing the story—your readers are going to expect regular updates! If nothing else, you have a weekly deadline to turn in 1000 words or so.
(Disclosure: I’m one of the TuesdaySerial staff. It’s all-volunteer, no ads even, and we’re always looking for guest posters.)
I first tried Extreme Pantsing in 2007, when I’d not even heard the term “pantsing,” and I wasn’t on Twitter and hadn’t heard of TuesdaySerial. I posted Episode 1 of a story I called FAR Future; the title was a pun on my blog name, and the story depicted blog posts from an oil-depleted near future (a little too near, as it turned out, oops). I had no idea what I was doing, where the story was going, or how long it was going to be. There were weeks that I didn’t get an episode up. But I kept cranking away, and the story unfolded… and kept going… and going. It run over two years, with 104 episodes total.
Not content to take a break, I started posting White Pickups shortly after FAR Future wrapped up. Again, I had no idea of how it would finish, but I had a good head start (about ten episodes written) when I started posting it. I thought it might run 30 episodes. HA! It ran 90, another run of nearly two years, and turned into a 100,000 word novel that demanded an 80,000 word sequel (Pickups and Pestilence).
And that brings us to today… or maybe yesterday would be more accurate. I’ve been wanting to write some historical fiction about my fictional world, Termag, for some time now (does that make it fictional historical fiction?). The story was reluctant to be written, but I had an opening scene that looked good. So I forced the issue. If you have a mind, go check out The Lost Years, Season 1, Episode 1. (Breaking up a serial into “seasons” gives you the luxury of taking a break once you hit a good stopping point, just in case you decide to start plotting.)
Sounds scary, but it has worked for me before. Why question success? Start posting, and pants the hell out of it.
Thanks for reading, and check out some of the other Indie Life writers this week!