Don’t Know What I’m Doin,’ but I’m Doin’ It

The other day I was reminded about an upcoming milestone: the one-year anniversary for this blog, which will take place next month. Time has flown, hasn’t it? I suddenly realized that I need to come up with a grand plan to commemorate this event. Guess I’d better add that to my to-do list. Though I have an iPhone with a notes app, I usually jot down important things to remember on the backs of old receipts or bill envelopes. That way, I’ll remember them. I’ve come a long way since college, where I had a habit of writing important things to remember on my hand or arm . . . which indirectly reminds me of a post I read a couple of days ago.

write-on-arms-and-thighs

Um, I didn’t write on my arm to cheat like this person.

I won’t say where I found it or who wrote it, but the gist of the post was a suggestion that pantsers stop writing by the seat of their pants and put some effort into outlining. According to the post, “pantsing” probably is a bad habit some writers developed.

Instead of being encouraged, I came away wanting to punch a wall. I feel like that whenever someone tells me what I ought to do, especially if what that person thinks I ought to do fits that person’s plans or personality more than it fits mine. I also feel like punching a wall when someone insinuates that my process is somehow “bad.”

pantser1In writing, I fly by the seat of my pants quite a bit. I start with a character and let the story flow. This, however, does not mean I never give any thought to story structure or the need to research and plan. Nevertheless, I usually don’t start with an outline. 

Another aspect of flying by the seat of my pants involves goals. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time (a week should do it) you’ll notice that I haven’t posted any writing goals like other bloggers have done. I greatly admire them for that. They’re organized and probably live in nicely vacuumed houses where the back issues of magazines are regularly culled. (Last year, I finally got around to throwing away the 2009—2011 issues of Entertainment Weekly.)

010

My housekeeping could stand some improvement obviously. And perhaps someday I’ll get around to thinking of goals for writing besides finish this novel and get it to beta readers. After all, for the first time ever, I went the outline route for my current novel, which proves I can pull one off. But that doesn’t mean I will always go that route or should always do so.

Another aspect of flying by the seat of my pants is this here blog. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I maintain this blog because it’s fun. If it begins to feel like work, I won’t do it. Interviewing authors, writing posts about the inanities of my life and the videogames I play or the movies or animated shows I watch—that’s fun. You can expect more of that and maybe a few surprises along the way. For example, I’ve been dying to host an ice cream giveaway. I just have to figure out how. And I wouldn’t mind dabbling into some flash fiction or creating a game readers can play (with prizes) if I feel inspired.

8442457The contents of this blog have always pretty much been a guessing game. I’m reminded of a quote by director David Fincher, which comes from an interview in Entertainment Weekly about his upcoming movie, Gone Girl (based on the mega-bestseller by Gillian Flynn). Perhaps you know him by the films he directed, which are Fight Club; Se7en; The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Fincher quips, “All you need to do is look at my filmography to know that I have no idea what people want” (21). That pretty much sums up this blog. I don’t know what people want. But I know what I want: to do things my way, warts and all.

If that doesn’t scare you, then welcome to my world. Hope you enjoy your stay. And now, I’ll leave you with this.

lolcatsdotcom8bpgawu7gsoyn59t

Lee, Stephan. “Gone Girl.” Entertainment Weekly. 17 Jan. 2014: 18-22. Print.

Gollum cat from LOL Cats. Gone Girl cover from Goodreads. Inked arm photo from spotonlists.com.

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41 thoughts on “Don’t Know What I’m Doin,’ but I’m Doin’ It

  1. Our blogs should allow us to be self-indulgent. We know what we like and what we want to express, and if other people come along and like it so much the better. That’s what happens in life-certain people gravitate towards each other. Maybe due to shared experiences, similar outlooks or interests, sometimes you just click.
    I just hope I havent repelled anyone of late 🙂 But we are all individuals, and must do things ‘my way’. I feel a song coming on.

  2. I’m still a little unclear about the ‘pantser/planner’ thing since I learned about it last year. Much like learning that present tense isn’t common or liked by a lot of people. I’m really just getting into the loop now on all this. So, I’m always confused when someone says that one way is better than the other. I’ve yet to meet an author that is exclusively a pantser or planner. You come up with a basic idea before flying by the seat of your pants? That’s a little planning. You plan an outline and then alter the story as you write to fit how it actually comes out? That’s a little bit of . . . pantsing . . . that’s a very dangerous term.

    Now, I’m more interested in that ice cream giveaway. I really wonder how that would work over the Internet and it seems like something the world desperately needs.

    • I agree that ice cream should be given away more. I’ll come up with a way to make it work.
      I for one love present tense. It has such a sense of immediacy and action–like watching a movie unfold.

      My hackles always go up when someone presumes that everyone’s writing style should be the same. I can’t say I’m crazy about the terminology of pantsing versus plotting either. Trying to boil the process of writing down to one simple term seems an action earmarked for failure. We write. We get the job done. And then we eat chocolate.

  3. “I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I maintain this blog because it’s fun. If it begins to feel like work, I won’t do it.” Amen! I feel exactly the same, Linda. As for the ice cream giveaway..gift card…they won’t melt! Have a great week!

    • Ah. I’m getting an image of clouds now. When I was a kid, I could always see different things in clouds. I like that aspect, though a little bit of predictability can be comforting. But I hope I’m not boring people.

  4. Wow! Not even a year old. It surprises this professor how many blogs that I love and enjoy were started just last year!

    I think outlining is overrated. When I write, I love just letting the story go.

  5. I thought your blog has been around longer than that Linda. The quality has been excellent for a blog not even a year old.

    In regards to the pantser/plotter thing, someone better tell George R. R. Martin he’s been doing it wrong…

    • Thanks, Phillip! And I have to say, I had you and others in mind about the goals. You’re so good at listing your goals. I feel like a complete slug. But I’m somewhat comfortable in my sloth. Maybe that’s the problem.

  6. Happy almost blog anniversary, Linda! I love your varied, humorous, and thoughtful posts. I sometimes get ahead of myself and come up with these big plans that aren’t actually feasible or stress out about things that are far off in the future and I can’t do anything about them now. So I really admire your attitude!

  7. I still write reminders on my arm, to be honest!

    I would definitely have wanted to punch the wall after that post, too. I’ve outlined before and I’ve pantsed before and I don’t think either one is better than the other. The first draft of A More Complicated Fairytale was pantsed and look how far it has come over the last 12 months.

  8. I believe I saw that post come across my reader. I ignored it. Not that I’m not open to other views, I am. But don’t tell me that how I’m doing something creative is the *wrong* way. There are many different ways to come up with the number 5. As long as it’s working, it’s right for you.

    I’m a pantser, no one will ever talk me out of it because that’s the way I write best. If I have to create an outline and then try to stick to it, I’ve just taken all the fun out of what writing is for me. That’s not to say I don’t have an idea of where I want the plot to go. Oftentimes that’s just in my head, sometimes it finds its way onto paper as rambling notes. And sometimes, I just have no clue what’s going to happen until I get there. Though I complain about my characters running amuck, I really do love it.

    • I figured that someone else would have seen that post, which is why I didn’t want to mention names. 🙂 I hear you! The fangs and claws came out when I saw that. I’m glad you’re doing what you’re doing, Kathi. You tell a great story!

      • Aww, thanks. 😀 I’m betting there had to be some interesting comments on that post. I figured I better stay away. My Dr. doesn’t like when my blood pressure goes up.

  9. I want an ice-cream giveaway! I’m going to have a Lord Business LEGO minifigure giveaway soon, because I bought 10 blind bags for the forthcoming LEGO Movie, hoping to get Lord Business, and I got four Lord Businesses (and three of his Bad Cops). I got them for a spoof of the Chris Christie/George Washington Bridge scandal, because the New Jersey governor bears a strong resemblance to the LEGO villain, but I really don’t need so many Christie stand-ins.

  10. “This is the only way” advice never seems helpful–especially when “this way” isn’t our way. We each have to find our own process–be that outlining, pantsing, or some combination of the two. And our process may very well change from book to book. I know my process with my current novel has been significantly different than with my first–though with both I followed (and am following) some combination of outlining and pantsing. And we can tell you have fun with your blog, Linda. That’s part of what draws us to it and you!

    • Thank you, Stephanie. I agree that one’s process can be fluid. When I was a student, my process evolved, depending on who I had as an advisor. And with this book, with more than one point of view character, I had to outline. Other novels I’ve started do not have an outline.

  11. Yes, I admit to having a similar reaction to lists of 100 things I need to do right now to do something better. I suppose they do serve a useful purpose, even though I don’t typically follow any of the listed tips, because they inspire me to take action in a way that defies all the rules that supposedly apply.

  12. The primary reason I can’t stand to read about writing? Because there’s no one right way to put a book together, and anyone who tries to say there is is an asshole. So much of creating is doing what helps the artist create, and that means I’m a pantser (and I am), so be it. My characters decide what happens in a first and even second draft, and I go back and gauge whether what they want works. Yes, I write a lot more and throw a lot more away because of that, but it’s the only way the characters will tell me what to do. I don’t outline because I don’t want to limit them in the beginning. Some of my most awesome breakthroughs have happened because I let the characters decide.

    Blogging should always be fun. We aren’t making any money at it, so we should at least get to do what makes us happy. I get pretty tired of the commenters on my blog who complain about content. (There’s really only one commenter who likes to do that, but still.) I want to scream, “You’re not paying me to read it, so just don’t read it!!!!!” I think it’s awesome that you’re coming up on your year anniversary, Linda. I wish I were somewhere close to you so we could raise a glass. It’s a big accomplishment.

    • Thanks, Andra. Wow. People complain about content on your blog? I think I recall a post where you mentioned that. I’m constantly amazed at the posts you do. Honestly, you make me feel lazy. Keep doing what you’re doing.

      As for fiction writing, everyone’s process is his or her own. All of my advisors drilled that into me. We all come at the finish line in our own unique ways. A cookie-cutter process is just not feasible. Maybe there’s a proper way to make a bed. But to write a story of one’s own creation? That’s up to the writer. So let’s just keep on with our process.

  13. Keep doing what you’re doing because your blog is fabulous! And quite frankly there really shouldn’t be any rules to how a writer actually goes about writing. What might work for me won’t for you and so on. Keeping things fresh and fun seems to be key and flying by the seat of your pants is one way to achieve that. I love the fact you want to host an ice cream giveaway!

    Congrats too on your blog anniversary. 🙂

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