Tag Archives: pantser

Self doubt

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.  ~Sylvia Plath

I will admit to being a bad English major and literary nerd – I’ve never read The Bell Jar. However, this Plath quote really resonates with me now. Between being sick last week and plagued with self-doubt this week I am a mess.

My NaNoWriMo novel is at forty thousand words, which in sheer word count terms, is awesome. I think I am only about a third or a fourth of the way into the story. I feel like there is a turning point coming up that I have yet to discover; one of the great and frightening parts of pantsing. Hopefully I will discover the illustrious and mysterious turning point soon. We shall see.

I am starting to wonder, was I ever really a pure pantser? I think the answer is no. But I am not a born plotter; I am not making outline of my story before it is written. Instead, I like to have my amorphous mess and then figure out what the structure should be…I sort of reverse-engineered the first draft of novel-1. I have been scribbling down scribbling down scenes of what I want to happen before I start writing, which I find helpful. And on the bright side, definitely helps keep my word count up. Thank you Rachel Aaron. She had great advice about upping your word count her blog.

I am planning on sitting down with the half-done draft of novel-1 sequel and trying to plot out my second attempt on it. I plan to do that after I finish my NaNo novel, which is I am semi-pantsing. It’ll be interesting to see how it works out and if it works out. It is scary, but I enjoy pushing myself to try new techniques and ideas. I’ve heard about the beat sheet and story/ narrative structure. So I shall try to employ this while plotting out the high points of sequel to novel-1. Wish me luck.

P.S. On a completely unrelated note, I am super excited about Rachel Aaron’s new book, Spirit’s End. You should totally check it out!

©K. Klein 2012

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Shitty First Drafts & NaNoWriMo

“Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts” ~Anne Lamott

If you haven’t read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – I highly recommend it. It is a book that discusses craft and other writing related things. But what I took out of it the most is that it is ok to write messy, shitty, plot hole ridden first drafts. I spent a long time paralyzed by the idea that I had to write a perfect first draft. It also helped me realize that it is ok to be a kind of crazy writer and that I am not alone. Sometimes writing is such a hermit activity it is easy to think that I am the only one who feels this way.

In any case, I cannot tell you the amount of tyranny that my inner critic ruled my writing life with…that voice, which is helpful during edits and rewrites, is downright stifling when I am just trying to get the story on the page. Part of the initial resistance this NaNoWriMo has been my need to stuff the inner-critic back in its box. He had his mustache-twirling tyrannical joy fest when we edited my pre-NaNo novel. And now it is time for some quiet time in the box. Really. And I don’t feel bad about being mean to him; he is a tyrant after all. (And he was mean to me first.)

Shitty first drafts coupled with NaNoWriMo have allowed me to complete several first drafts now. This November I am rediscovering the joy and the pains of writing a first draft from scratch. Last NaNo, I ventured to write a sequel so I didn’t have to root around as much in my world-building. I am building this new world from scratch. It is terrifying and so much fun at the same time.

I am also learning new things about my craft and my style. I have read Rachel Aaron’s awesome blog post about going from 2k to 10k a day. I haven’t hit 10k in a day yet, but I have hit 5k two days in a row. Just by jotting down the basic events of what I wanted to write for that day. I really enjoyed how she explained her triangle of enthusiasm, knowledge, and time. Check out her post for more information.

In the great pantser vs. plotter debate, I always thought of myself as more of a panster. But I think that is somewhat of a lie; I always hit writer’s block when I don’t know where I am going with the story. I think that I am more of a mental planner. Like I have an idea of where the story is going in my head. A rough outline I guess. So now here I am jotting down brief pre-writing session lists. I am not quite to a full outline stage of planning. Perhaps I am a pantser with plotter tendencies? I don’t know entirely. Although even the greatest planners do get sidetracked from their outlines and plans sometimes – so I don’t think anyone is purely one or the other.

So what do you think? Are you meticulous in your first draft? Do you write shitty first drafts? Are you a plotter or a punster? Or both?

P.S. I am super happy the election is over!

P.P.S. Sorry it has been a while since I blogged, I caught a stupid cold.

©K. Klein 2012

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Come have a cup of tea with me

Strange how a teapot can represent at the same time the comforts of solitude and the pleasures of company.  ~Author Unknown

I have all sorts of odds and ends on my mind at the moment. So join me for a virtual tea time if you please. If you don’t drink tea – feel free to have a cup of coffee, hot chocolate, or whatever warm beverage you fancy. Not to brag, but I do make a mean cup of hot chocolate.

The dominant thought on my mind is that I finished my rewrite last night. Part of me can’t believe it. I don’t quite want to let go. I do still need to read about half of the book to my brother for final polishing. But for the most part, aside from the tinkering, this draft is done. This is the first novel that I have rewritten completely. I have finished several first drafts, but this is the first one that I felt compelled to bring to the next stage of the writing process.

I found it interesting to learn about my rewrite and revision process. I found it different from my first draft process. During the first draft I tend to write by the seat of my pants – letting the characters and story take me where they will. I also try to shut the editor off so that I can just sit down and write.

I reverse-engineered my novel throughout the planning stage of the rewrite. I reread the first draft and figured out what plot points made sense; added in scenes and chapters where I found plot holes. Then I sat down to rewrite and revise the novel. Much of the beginning included writing chapters from scratch because I lost the thread of a character arc in the first half of the first draft.

It is interesting to see how it turned out. My first draft was 65000 words, which is a bit anemic for a novel. I am a rare underwriter. I get the bones out and then fill in the rest later. My second draft is 20k longer at 86000 words. In the second draft, I filled in physical descriptions and fleshed out character arcs and characterizations. Slowly, but surely I am sharing the baby novel with my beta readers.

I am proud of myself for reaching this new milestone in my writing journey and process. I hope that the next time I do a revision that I won’t have to write more than half of it by hand before typing it up. Who knows? We shall see.

The other thing on my mind at the moment is NaNoWriMo. The New Idea is knocking at my brain and it wants me to write it. I have two and a half days where I cannot write in the new novel. Gah. Anticipation is a good thing. I sort of lack the patience though. I want to write now and not wait.

On the bright side, this does give me a chance to catch up on some reading. My dad recently bought a tablet, and I borrowed a copy of Pride & Prejudice from the library to read it on his tablet. I own a paper copy, but it is buried in my boxes in storage. So I am rereading it for the third or fourth time. I love Jane Austen. Reading is a great way to refill my creative well. And it is soothing; my anxiety has been a bit high today.

What is your favorite part of the writing process? Do you prefer tea, coffee, or hot chocolate? Any new books you’re curling up with that you’d recommend? I always love to check out new and interesting books. Not that my to be read pile isn’t a couple miles high. But I always love to hear about new authors and great books.

©K. Klein 2012

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Planning for NaNoWriMo 2012

If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is check out their website here. The basic premise is to write a 50,000 words novel in the thirty days of November. I have participated in this challenge since 2010 and really enjoy pushing myself to write.

What 2010 taught me about my first draft process is this: write-through the fear. Often times, when writing I get to a point where I don’t know what I am going to do or where the story is going. This might seem odd since I don’t tend to outline, but I usually have a vague idea of where the story is taking me; usually two to five steps ahead of where I am chapter wise.

When I reach the end of that I often hit a block. My first NaNoWriMo taught me to write-through the fear and the unknown. It goes back to Anne Lamott’s idea of the shitty first draft. The whole point of a first draft is to get the story on the page in all of its messy glory. It doesn’t matter if it is pretty or not. I also tend to think of this stage of drafting as the “don’t kill the baby stage.” I learned that it is important to not jump into judging it too fast because you don’t know how it is going to turn out in the rewrite and revision stage.

The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that I learned something completely different in 2011. Last year I finished the first complete draft of novel-1. It isn’t technically the first novel I’ve completed, but it is the first one to make it to the rewrite and revision stage of the process. Well, I finished novel-1 on October 31, 2011 and then proceeded to start writing its sequel on November 1. And I had to drag every last word out during last year’s NaNoWriMo; yay for burnout. I am sure this had nothing to do with being in grad school at the time. I swear.

I am out of grad school now. Yay. And so I plan to learn a new lesson in 2012; novel-1’s revision deadline is set for October 31, 2012. However, I am going to write something not related to novel-1 or its sequel. I have several shiny new ideas dancing around in my head. I think I am going to pick one; hopefully before November 1 (although who knows) and go with it. I need a break from Novel-1’s world much as I love it and the characters I’ve created.

If you’re a writer, do you plan on taking part in NaNoWriMo?

©K. Klein 2012

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