I am currently in the middle of writing the first draft of my fifth (!)* novel.
As with my first effort, Finding Cadence, I’m starting out with a load of vague ideas and a kinda-sorta story line. I have characters, and they all have their own problems (i.e. baggage). I have a situation, which will eventually culminate with a show down of sorts on the biggest, most iconic bridge in America, hell, probably the world (the Golden Gate). Other than that, I have a notebook and a pencil and a bunch of scenes. At this point, I’m letting my imagination do the talking and walking. Somewhere later on, I’ll have to tie these people together and resolve their problems.
This, my friends, is known as the “pantser” method of writing a novel. Being a pantser means you don’t write outlines (because you’ve never been able to stomach them), you don’t use 3×5 cards or sticky notes (because it’s a waste of cardboard and you know how I love trees), and you don’t do any preliminary work, like figure out who your characters are (because you are an artiste and why should you bow to convention?).
I’ve also written novels using loose outlines and sketched out story lines for my characters way in advance. Consider my Virtually Yours books, where I’ve got a lot of characters and thirty days worth of time to get the story finished a al NaNoWriMo. Thirty days is nothing. I don’t have time to mess around with pretty prose or inner character angst.
Having done both pantsing and outlining, I would agree it’s much easier to proceed when you have a plan. It’s still not foolproof and writing a novel is still daunting, but the work seems to flow more seamlessly.
Writing is a lot like painting a picture. Having done a fair amount of painting (since I was an art major, once, a long time ago), I can say that my best work started out with sketches. Stream of consciousness painting can work, but it’s more like creating without a clue. (It can be done, it’s just a different journey.)
As we all know, I’m a rebel artist. I resist convention. I currently design jewelry, and I’m sassy during class demonstrations.** I have taken pantsing to a new pinnacle when it comes to metals. Me, sketch out a design? You’ve got to be kidding me.*** There is a downside. Oh, if you could only see my scrap-junk-failed projects drawer…
Pantsing is a very interesting way to write a novel. It takes longer and it’s fraught with landmines. You might have to write and rewrite to achieve the desired result.
However, if you’re open to constant change, it is definitely a way of discovering infinite possibilities.
Either way, I’m writing.
* I know. Can you believe it? I got from an opening line to a “The End” four frigging times? Unbelievable!
** Ask my teacher, Mary. She will give you an extended run down of what a
horrible challenging student I am.
*** That sound you heard was my butt hitting the floor, as I fell of my chair, laughing my ass off.