Friday, May 28, 2010

A Painful Journey to Discovery - Part One

As a newbie writer years ago, I took every workshop and attended every writer’s meeting with a fervor reserved for the newly converted.

I wrote more books as time went by, and attended more conferences and workshops, and I became convinced that my process of flying by the seat of my pants to write a book was making me a slow writer. So, with an obsession that borders on … well, OCD, I poured over Carolyn Green’s Plot Doctor notebook, learned everything I could glean out of it, attended Debra Dixons’ Goal, Motivation and Conflict (actually attended this workshop twice - years apart - because sometimes my brain is really that dense), filled out worksheets and tried to pound the information into my brain. Then I found First Draft in 30 Days. Perfect way to write my books quickly, I thought. More worksheets to fill out, with more plot to figure out in front of the story. I was in OCD heaven.

And don’t get me started on the 3-Act Structure or 6-Act Structure, etc., I will explode. Really. It won't be pretty.

Only to write slower and slower, have many moments of self-doubt and many, many times of calling or emailing friends for support and just plain whining.

It took several years and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. One of those was the thought that I needed to plot to be a successful writer. NOT TRUE. Several well-known and prolific writers (Allison Brennen comes to mind immediately) do not plot. The secret to their success – IMHO – is that they write, every day or nearly every day. They sit down and put their time in, consistently.

Earlier this year, after finally deciding that I was done effing around with a book I’ve written and re-written and polished for a couple of years now, it was time to pick a new project. Usually when I’m done with one book, another has already been knocking at my brain, trying to get in. Not this time. I had nothing. It was a scary – petrifying, really – few weeks.

There are files in my drawer full of ideas, and not-fully-formed book possibilities, so I pulled them out. Only one excited me to any degree, an idea about a woman who owned a bar, a safe place where the paranormal community would gather called The Gathering Place ... a supernatural Cheers, if you will. I knew she was special, and that she did something else on the side, like a bounty hunter or private investigator. That’s it. Nothing else.

Not even her name. Plot – what plot?

To be continued .....


  1. Hi Darla - Congrats on getting your blog up and running! I've written one completed manuscript, totally seat-of-the-pants, and started wondering if there wasn't a better way... I'm definitely interested in trying new ways of making the best use of limited time at the computer, but I think yours is a cautionary tale worth keeping in mind! Hope to see you at a future RCRW meeting! - Meredith

  2. Hi Meredith! Thanks for commenting! I definitely believe that if you're a seat-of-the-pants writer, then messing with that process by trying to become a plotter is not in your best interest. The best advice I can give is BICHOK = Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. You might try different techniques, like switching from keyboard to hand writing if you get stuck on a plot point or character arch, but just devoting time to write is the most important thing you can do for your writing career. I won't be at the June meeting (dau is graduating college-Whoohoo!!), but Susan Lute and I will be speaking at the July meeting. Hope to see you! Dar

  3. Pantsers unite! Actually, I "go into the mist" as they say for about the first 100 pages or so. Then I know what's happening and go back and tighten. Then I go "into the mist" again. Sometimes, I get stuck. Then I actually outline the rest of the book--a very, very basic outline--to get me going again. My first two manuscripts were completely organic. My next two were the combination above. Now that I'm on the fifth one, I started outlining about page 80--but I'm only outlining one or two chapters ahead. I think whatever works for you is what is best. Keep BICHOKing. :)

  4. Maggie - so good to hear from you!! I like 'Go into the mist' rather than 'Pantser" ... always seemed a little, um, naughty to be pantsing, LOL! I do spend time thinking about where my story is going, and jotting down notes, so when I sit down and write, I have an idea of where it's going at least. And the book I'm currently writing - I already know the ending. But don't tell anybody, 'cause I'm flying 'into the mist' and loving it!