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Panster + Plotter = Potter

I used to be a total panster. Then a friend asked if I'd like to write a book with her - I said sure! Sounded like fun. What I didn't expect was that my structured, reliably anal friend (I have literally relied on her for years to keep ME in line, both personally and professionally) would turn into this creative smut maven and that I, who never thought twice before jumping into the pool without checking for water, would suddenly become the guardian of word count, the methodical A goes into B and rarely into C, "it's not reality, it's actuality..." roadmap reader. I have always flown by the seat of my pants. All of this care and double-checking, the tedious monitoring of timeline and chronology, and the infernal care I've been ladeling on my characters...well, it's wearing on me!

What the hell happened to my speak-to-the-hand-because-the-ears-don't-give-a-damn? Before my conversion from panster to plotter, every time a character told me they didn't want to "go there", like a dumbass with an IQ of 10, I'd mumble okay and let them lead me where they wanted ME to go. Now I'm a different kind of jerk. I argue and fret and refuse to be led around by imaginatry people, forgetting that it's the the marriage of both sides of the brain, not the control of one over the other, that produces my best verbiage.

Prior to the past few weeks, my editors would rail at me for not paying closer attention to detail, for not catching my own timeline faux pas. Now they love me. So becoming anal does have its perks.

Back to my explosion of psychic powers, though. I've only written one novella with my friend. We're eyebrow deep in our second. I've also agreed to crack my own comfort zone with yet another friend--I've agreed to write a female/female romance.

Measuring years of controlled "I'll do this but not that" kind of writing against mere days of "Go on, without a net this time", I've come to the conclusion that it's only writing, it's only life. They can't eat me (well, they could offer, which might be interesting). So I'm gonna take more chances, more even than I've already taken. I've found that I rather like flying without a net, as long as I'm in good company.

And I predict a lot more energy in my writing, that I'll drop my pants more frequently and show my ass in the process, which is probably not so good. But I predict that I'll be a much happier writer, having learned how to work both sides of the brain.

Now if I can just get them to be compatible more often. Guess that's where the potter in me must shine. I'll have to learn how to choose good material, to simply throw the clay on the wheel, shape it, and then...let it take shape.

Come to think of it, that's not a bad way to live life, huh?


Sam said...

I'm a plotter - except on a few rare occasions when the characters manage to get the upper hand, lol.
I do find that having an outline makes the book go faster - even if I stray radically from said outline. When I wing it, the book often turns out to have plot holes or problems with the time line.
Yes, as you said, becoming anal has its perks, lol.

Jamie Hill said...

I'm a pantster, with a bit of plotting at the beginning, of course.

Great blog, Lyn!


Jamie Hill said...

Hey, did you get my email? LOL

Write me back!

~ Jamie

Lyn Cash said...

LOL, Jamie. Uh, Carol? Blame it on Carol Lynne.

Sam, I love taking chances, but I'm always one of those who is great through a crisis and then falls apart afterwards. So being a panster OR a plotter is always a double-edged sword for me. *sigh*

Dakota Rebel said...

My characters always control my books. I will have a vague outline of where the story starts and where it will end, but the middle is completely pantsed. (Is that right? It doesn't look right.)
I don't usually mind it, until my editor informs me that 1. "Your heroine cannot call herself an asshole." 2. "Why does your hero have three hands?" 3. "She has been standing through the whole scene, how did she 'fly to her feet' when she is already on them."

My editor would probably like me to be a little more anal too.


Great post sweetie!


Judith Rochelle said...

Great post, kiddo. We all should read it. I've tried being a plotter. Even went to boot camp and got all the flow charfts and character outlines, but it felt like I was in a straitjacket. I always have the essence of the plot in my head but I don't seem to be able to stop listening to my characters. The follow me einto the shower, around the house, even into the grocery store. I'll have to take notes from you and learn when to tell them to shut up, because they are always getting me in trouble!

Lyn Cash said...

aaw - thanks, Dakota and Judith! I felt that this was a really lame post, but it's what's been bugging me...until I sat down and thought about it long enough.

Dorothy Garlock spoke at a writers' conference I attended long, long ago, and one of the attendees asked her what she did with a character who tried taking over her book. The little old lady didn't even blink.

"I kill them. It's my book, not theirs."

For some reason that just cracked me up. Dorothy was cousins with a best bud of mine, so we got to hang out with her, and she was the most sincere, dedicated little thing. I just loved her. Learned a lot. The other big lesson of that weekend was that if you're writing historicals (I don't, but it's the thought that counts), don't have your hero and heroine ride 3 days, come to the first flat rock, and have oral sex.


Lyn Cash said...

I just re-read my comment. I called Dorothy little like twice. I'm nearly 6' tall in my shoes, so EVERYONE is little to me, but especially anyone under 5'5" - lol. SORRY. I just thought Dorothy was adorable. Wanted to pack her up and take her home with me. It was like hearing my great-grandmother talking about oral sex, though. Shocking yet delightful.

Ashley Ladd said...

I'll admit it, I'm a pantser most of the time. I'm trying to be more of a plotter. When I say pantser, I usually know the big points, but the little details in the middle is often inspired by what's going on during the writing process.

I've tried writing with partners, but so far, we've always given up the project. Usually they dropped out and I got tired of waiting on their input and went ahead and did my own thing.

Alexis Fleming said...

Great post, kiddo, but why do I get the feeling I'm the anal one? Mwhahahaha!
I do fly by the seat of my pants...sometimes. I do have a plot...of sorts...sometimes. lol
But I can still be surprised when my writing partner turns round and hits me with a "Whoa, babe, didn't see that coming" moment.
Hey, it's working. Why spoil a good thing. lol

Lyn Cash said...

Jamie, my vanity needs to leave, and I need to start wearing my eyeglasses. I thought your post said HOW, not HEY, and I misread. *you have email now* lol

*waves to Ashley* but the little details in the middle is often inspired by what's going on during the writing process. I love that. Sitting here nodding. Yep, yep.

Lex, I thought you were too busy to blog or read - lol. You weren't supposed to read that! *grin* I should have thanked you publicly for being that anal one when we first met, for teaching me the ropes, leading me around (by the nose sometimes) until I stepped up to the plate. You have been a true inspiration, my friend.