Planner, pantser or just disorganized?

Don’t you just love those writing life blogs and e-zines that ask whether you’re a planner or a pantser when it comes to planning stories? A planner is someone who outlines their plot point by point and writes character profiles and color codes schemata showing character placement and timelines, etc. A pantser is a writer who just feels her way through the first draft, waiting for the characters or the writing gods to tell her what the story is about. She’s basically flying by the seat of her pants. Get it?

What do you call yourself if you basically played with a vision for a novel until you had 50 or so pages of material, then you sat down and tried to outline the mess because characters were spinning off on adventures in every direction? At one point I could describe the chapters from start to finish–a proud moment indeed. Then I started to actually write those chapters with intent and things happened. Mysterious things.

Some characters cooperated. Others did not. Plot hitches raised their ugly heads like a massive nest of disturbed sea snakes. New episodes that could not be ignored had to be worked into the plot. Lots of great stuff had to be snuffed out. I couldn’t tell you what the hell my style is, but I hold onto my tattered outline and mark all over it so it makes no sense. And sometimes I just have to write a lot of stuff to get from A to B. I refuse to allow myself two versions of the whole WIP, but I will save a few scenes that I just don’t have the heart to delete even though they don’t fit anymore.

I’m half way through the third draft and I am feeling better about the first half, but I’m in that saggy middle, and man, it’s a mess. Just trying to keep faith chapter by chapter now. I have so much more sympathy for those writers who I felt failed me in the second half of their novels. The odds of me joining their ranks have never been better.

A writing dilemma: focus on what lies ahead or what is coming from behind?

When I finally decided to stop trying to write literature and embraced the trifecta genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror, I realized something very important about myself. I’m a bit of an alarmist. It’s not something I’m proud of and I have spent inordinate amounts of energy trying to cover this up in polite company, but there it is. I’m nervous, high strung, a worrier. Not in a loud way, but in a quiet, constant yellow-alert sort of way.

Maybe others who have felt this way in the past have had more justification for saying this than I, but I think we are living in times that make this condition worse. It feels as though we have just gotten down from the trees, and run half-way across the savannah while more-or-less successfully avoiding lions. Now, on the horizon, a huge mother-ship of biological and environmental threats, political disintegration, and technological threats is hovering. Is it just me?  Continue reading

Writing in the midst of the Trump crisis

One week of the Trump Administration and I feel as though I’m drinking from a fire hose. I’m fairly certain the experience will soon seem more like waterboarding. Not surprisingly, 1984 by George Orwell has already climbed back up into the bestsellers’ lists. How should writers respond? Write faster?

On one hand, I’m itching to fight the power, and I notice my prose has grown more vigorous, too. Pages are pouring out whenever I can pull myself away from the news. On the other hand, I’m trying to listen to those who don’t think as I do, and the more I do, the more apparent it is that the crack separating my vision of reality from theirs runs very, very deep. It frightens me and saps my energy. I have never worried over the unity of this country as I have in the last year.


On the political end of the equation, here’s what’s happened. Every day, I send one email of protest to the White House, but Trump is not the only problem, and I do believe we have to be active locally as well as on the national front. Two days ago I wrote to all my local council members and the county executive about the executive’s wrongheaded veto of a bill to increase minimum wage to $15 per hour. Yesterday, I wrote my members of Congress and the Speaker of the House about this horrendous Muslim ban. Today I wrote my governor about his poor decision to veto a bill expanding state benchmarks for renewable energy because we all know that the only hope for action on climate change rests with state governments now. Ahead, I’ve already committed to writing members of Congress about Trump’s treatment of the press, the Dakota Pipeline and the necessity of ridding the White House of Steve Bannon. And don’t even ask me how many marches and protests I’ve been invited to.

This looks like a spray of birdshot aimed at a field of wolves. Or, more grandly, maybe I’m like Faramir in the retreat from the Pelennor Fields. Pick your favorite doomed defense. And, yes, I know I’m being played. This is good political strategy on the Trumpets’ part. Hit them with everything, and they won’t be able to unite or defend anything. Continue reading

A snippet from chapter 6 / Pasaje del capítulo 6

I wanted to write a post about voice, being impressed recently with Norman Partridge’s voice in Dark Harvest, a Stoker Award winner, but I finished it so long ago I’d have to go back and reread to tell you all the reasons why Partridge’s voice is so right for this fast-paced, noir-ish horror story. I don’t have time right now. I have taken up a new day job that is working me hard (I’ve lost three pounds in two weeks.), and I have not been reading or writing much of anything. Therefore, in an effort to get 2017 moving, I thought I would share a scene from chapter 6 of the WIP. The chapter still needs work, but I like this encounter. I hope you will, too. Continue reading