Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Indie Life / Writing Wibbles

Welcome, Indie Lifers, to the free-range insane asylum! Don’t forget to hit the linky at the end, and see what other indies have to say about their travails, triumphs, and tips this month.

Extreme Pantsing

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!

6 comments:

  1. I tried to outline a story and when I finished the outline I had no desire to write the story. The fun of writing was gone because I already knew how the story would end.

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  2. Really good advice, Larry. I always work better when fear of public humiliation is at stake!

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  3. For a plotter, it does sound a bit scary. As soon as I get an idea, I usually know the beginning and the end. The middle is what I have to figure out.

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  4. Very interesting. I never know how things will end when I paint. But you've got a far bigger audience. ;-)

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  5. Patricia, but at some point, don't you know how it's going to end? Does it cease to be fun at that point? Just curious.

    Thanks, Cathy, and good to see you again!

    Cherie, that's where I often end up… I know how the story begins & end, and I have to muddle in the middle.

    Boran, at least you have a photo to work from. ;-)

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  6. My pantsing has sometimes been that extreme. But it's never worked out. I fizzle.

    ReplyDelete

Comments are welcome, and they don't have to be complimentary. I delete spam on sight, but that's pretty much it for moderation. Long off-topic rants or unconstructive flamage are also candidates for deletion but I haven’t seen any of that so far.

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