Day 95: I’m a Pantser

There, I’ve said it…I am a pantser when writing.  I have tried to outline and do all of the other “technical” things that non-pantsers do when starting their book.  I don’t do character sketches or plan my story arc or do an outline or anything else that would probably make life easier.  I just sit myself down and I write.  And that usually works well for me…until it doesn’t.  I am facing a fairly major rewrite on Rapture.  When I started writing my book, I had a vague idea of how it would all work.  I knew my characters very well because I had role-played them for about 6 months and the forum in which I played required you to write detailed backgrounds for your characters before you began playing.  When the game came to an end, I decided that the characters should live on in a book.  So, I sat down and just started writing.  The story flowed so easily from my brain to my hand to my computer that it felt like I was more of a conduit than a writer.  My muse was extremely generous.  Until she wasn’t.  After my book was optioned, everything began to change.  I was having to put in more hours at work, my mother’s Alzheimer’s went into high gear and she was hospitalized a lot during that time for other medical issues so I was spending all day working and all night at the hospital with her, my publisher wanted to change directions with my book and I didn’t agree so we parted ways, my physical and mental health declined because of the stress and complete lack of sleep, etc…  Rapture was put away because there was literally no time for it.  I would occasionally take it out and write a little but for the very first time, I had to actually pry every single word from my brain.  My conduit had been blocked off and nothing was flowing.  From that point on, most of what I wrote felt wrong.  There’s still some great stuff in there that I will salvage and plug in somewhere else but everything around those scenes feels false.  I’ve decided that I am going to sit myself down and work the story out on paper…more of a timeline than an outline…then go back to the point where the writing stopped flowing and start editing.  It’s not technically writing but it is forward momentum so I’m okay with that.  Moving forward slowly is still progress.  I know that this is going to be a fairly long and involved process because I am not going to force or rush it.  That’s how I originally painted myself into this corner.  I don’t want to just end up in a different corner.  So, I will plod thru my dissection of Rapture until all the bad parts are gone, the good parts are ready to drop into the appropriate spots, and my manuscript is whole.  No one really spends a lot of time telling writers about when good manuscripts go bad.  They do tell you about how a good outline will keep this type of thing from happening.  Personally, I think that’s only partially true.  Even if I’d had an outline, I would have still been trying to force it to work and that’s usually not successful.  I’m not saying that outlines are worthless because they do work for a large number of extremely successful writers.  What I am saying is that there are circumstances where they cannot save your story.  In my situation, it was similar to when you try to force a piece of a puzzle into a spot where it does not belong.  Yes, you can force it into that spot but it isn’t going to complete the picture and it’s going to ruin that piece and the pieces that surround it.  So you basically ruin the whole puzzle.  I am ready to reconstruct my puzzle but first I have to find all of the pieces that I forced to fit.  I’m not exactly thrilled by the thought of doing this but at least I no longer dread it.  So, I’m taking baby steps in the right direction.  And that’s all that matters.

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” ~ Stephen King

“In writing and living, sometimes you must destroy what you like to get what you love.” ~ William Faulkner                   


About Donna Heilman

I am a writer that lives in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex with my husband, 2 dogs, and 10 cats. I am currently working on my novel, Rapture, as well as writing poetry and some short non-fiction. I am honestly writing this blog to feel more connected with other creative people.
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