Pantsing your way to a story

“Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it’s enormous, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with all the gigantic ribs and grinning teeth. Either way, short story or thousand page whopper of a novel, the techniques of excavation remain basically the same.”

Stephen King – “On Writing”

There are tons of articles about plotting and pantsing. It’s a little absurd. And I really do get why plotters do what they do. I think it’s probably more of a personality preference than a successful writing strategy. I, however, despise outlines and will probably never use one when I write other than to keep track of what I have already written. Here are three reasons why i don’t use outlines, at least anymore, and why it’s a good thing.

My Characters suffer

When writing a story, characters seem to pop out of nowhere in my head, and then I find interesting things for them to do. I simply can not do this if I outline. I tend to have a main character who finds a bunch of cardboard NPC’s if I do this. It just isn’t a good thing.

But if i go in and just tell the story that’s in my head, this resolves itself. I may only have one to three characters in a story, but they will be far more interesting than the scallywag who happened to tell my main character where to find some jewel on a side quest.

plot points are not a story

When I relay the events of my life by telling a story, I do not order them out on a sheet of paper or in Scrivener before I tell my friends. Sure I have an idea of how it went down, but that doesn’t mean the events are perfectly ordered, or even that my story suffers from them being slightly out of order. Drawing from the quote at the top, if you found the fossil’s head next to its foot, would you say that it wasn’t a T-Rex? Or that you found it in an interesting way?

what if something changes

So you’re writing at full steam, hitting all of your plot points, and then it happens. You notice that one of your points down the line won’t jive with the story as it is being written. And if that point doesn’t flow, then several others are rendered moot. All of a sudden your outline is useless and needs to be -almost- completely redone. Well that’s a lot more time wasted. I did this a couple of times and I almost broke my computer. Maybe I’m just a bad outliner and that’s why that happened.

Oh well!

If you need to outline, I get it. Not everyone can sit down and just write a story. In fact, some writers believe outlining is how to beat writer’s block. If that’s you, more power for it. If not, I hope i gave you some insight into why I ditched my outlines, and maybe you should too.

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Fishing for Ideas

So I’m sitting here trying to think of a post for this week.

Last week was awesome because I got to interview Kenneth Barker, so this week seemed like kind of a drag. So I did what I always do after I have a hectic but productive week.

I went fishing.

This is nothing new, I go fishing once or twice a week. It’s a good way to clear my head and get frustrated with fish instead of people. But it also gives me some time to think about my writing. I’ve been working on a short story for about a month now and I can’t for the life of me get it ended. It isn’t even a long short story (..?) but it’s packed with cool stuff, so it has to end PERFECTLY.
And fishing helped me work it out.

Now I’m not telling all of you to go fishing per say, although I highly recommend it, but there has to be some unwind time. A lot of us indie authors spend way too much time working. I understand that being a writer is a lot of work; I write every week. And that writing is done on top of other jobs. But if you spend all of your time working and promoting and tweeting and whatever else, you will go crazy. Plus, the threat of ‘writer’s block’ looms on every corner.

Now when you go fishing, you have to worry about casting, what lure or bait you will use, oh and don’t forget to pick the perfect spot. So you’re out there casting, you get a bite, you reel in the fish, OH MY GERD ITS HUGE, and you get it in the ice chest, or let it go, whatever, and all of a sudden…

You get the idea for a killer story.
About mutant fishermen.
I’m reminded of an episode of The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon can’t figure out a theory and takes up a job at The Cheesecake Factory. He comes to an epiphany when he drops a a tray of plates and sees the problem in a whole new light.

What if you need to see your story in a new light? Go Fishing. What if your story needs a killer ending? Go fishing. What if you are going to explode if you have to write one more stinking word?!?!!?!

Go fishing.

And like I said before, it doesn’t have to be fishing. Go laser tagging, out to a fancy restaurant, to a baseball game, for a walk. There are lots of things to do.

Maybe your trip down the street, or down the river, will turn into something you wouldn’t have achieved in a month’s worth of work.