On Shaking Things Up

Last November, a pep talk came along from the writer of the Divergent series, Veronica Roth. You can read it here. It was about shaking things up. One thing in particular that stuck out to me was when she said, “Let go your process. Let go of stressing out about your process. Let go of finding your process. Let go of all of it.” She said some other things about stop trying to be perfect. And then she closed with this: “Don’t be a plotter or a pantser, a strict butt-in-chair person or an exercise-doer, a beginning-to-end-er or a time jumper—don’t be anything other than whatever you need to be to keep climbing.

I remember reading this and thinking, “I like my process, I like trying to be perfect, and I like plotting, shut up!”

But here’s the funny thing. I’ve only read this once, but I can remember almost everything it said. Somehow my brain latched on to it anyway, even though I didn’t want to hear it.

And a few months later, I started thinking, “I WANNA DO SOMETHING CRAZY!!”

gif - minion screaming

Now, what I meant by this, we may never know. But I remember it was in the weeks between reading some crazy, off the wall stories in a couple of anthologies that I’m slow poking my way through and watching this crazy, off the wall horror movie on Netflix. I remember relishing in those off the wall story lines and thinking, “They made those crazy ideas work…I can make MY crazy, stupid ideas work!”

It was just what I needed to stop worrying about my ideas and embrace them. If my brain couldn’t handle it and if I wasn’t meant to write them, then I would get different ideas! #lightbulbmoments

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about Veronica’s pep talk a lot over the last few weeks. It’s like, I’ve been plotting the same way for so long that it’s become ritualistic. I do without thinking – I can do it while half asleep. And worst of all, I’ve gotten so psycho about my notes. They have to be organized a certain way and in a certain kind of notebook with a certain kind of pen. I have to cover a mountain of information and outline so far into the story before I ever write a single word, and quite frankly, it’s starting to drive me crazy.

So, I am finally, FINALLY going to do something I’ve been too afraid to do – something I haven’t done since the early days when I didn’t know what I was doing: I’m going to pants an entire story.

Lately, my outlines have been tripping me up. Traditionally, I outline as I go, essentially, pantsing my outlines, and that works really well for me, but in the last year or so I’ve been doing these monster outlines and following them to a fault. So, for this one story, they’re out! The good thing is, for the story I have in mind, I have the entire plot (more or less) in my head, and I know exactly what I want (more or less). Plus, I’ve really been wanting to pants an entire story, so I’m finally going to do it! I actually wrote a couple of paragraphs before I made any notes at all! #livingontheedge 😛

The only notes I jotted down are my list of characters and descriptions of them so I could keep everyone straight, and a basic plot summary to keep me on track. That is all. No bios. No interviews. No detailed personality profiles. No outlines. No backstories. I’m not even jotting down scene ideas.

We get stagnant if we stand in the same place for too long. I have gotten stagnant. Change doesn’t happen all by itself. It requires a push, some external force, if you will. And that is not the only thing I’m shaking up. I’m also trying out a complete flip in my writing schedule. I did this for the last vampire story I wrote in 2012, and it worked out really well, so I’m going to try it again. Instead of writing late into the night, like I’ve been doing, I’m going to try writing first thing in the morning. Early morning. Like crack of dawn. And there is one more thing I want to say before I run off.

You know how sometimes you write a story, and it’s so bad the only way to fix it is to rewrite it from scratch? And I mean from scratch. No previous notes or scenes or sometimes, even characters. You don’t look at the previous version at all.

Well, I’ve never done this. I can even go as far as to say that I outright refused to do this. I think it’s extreme. If a story was so bad it needed to be rewritten from scratch, I trashed it. After all, if it’s not working, it’s not working. Sometimes you really can’t edit what you have and make it better. Sometimes ideas are just not going to work. But sometimes, the idea isn’t the problem. Sometimes, it’s just part of the idea. Sometimes, it’s the characters or the execution or the antagonist or the protagonist or the setting. Figuring out the problem is the hardest part, after all. Then, comes the next hardest part: deciding what you’re going to do about it.

This may or may not have anything to do with project I’m working on. 🙂 But I’m not telling anyone what it is until I know I’m not going to abandon it. All I’m going to say for now is that I keep getting stuck, in general, so I’m going to do whatever it takes to get to the other side of this brick wall that’s standing in my way.
cannonball into brick wall

15 Responses to On Shaking Things Up

  1. Best of luck! I think we get so into our processes because they tend to work and we want some kind of routine…even though, routines can grow really boring after a while. And besides, writers tend to be neurotic, so we overthink everything and then we convince ourselves that this is the only way and being neurotic is the only way to be a writer. Plus, I find it different with every project, so it takes me a minute to settle in.

    • *nods emphatically* Yep and yep! This project is a little easier to experiment with because while I always have an idea of what I want and what needs to happen to get me to the end, I feel like I know where this is going a little better than I usually do at this stage of drafting. So if I’m going to try it, I think I picked a good project to try it with. *finger crossed* Thanks, Lol!

  2. I tend to pants shorts, long as I know where I’m going and how I get there in my own mind. Can’t pants novellas and novels though. They tend to die when I do that.

    • That is what always stops me – memories of crashing hard in the past. I don’t plan on doing away with outlines forever, but I really need a break right now! This story has been in my head for a while though, so we’ll see what happens. I feel reckless. Lol!

  3. Sometimes change is necessary. I wrote a contemporary which is out of my wheelhouse. I did it without an outline, again out of my wheelhouse. I did it in notepad with no idea of the word count, way out of my wheelhouse. I’m editing it now and I know there are some issues, but I’m enjoying it a lot more. I think it’s stronger. So yes, sometimes that change is everything necessary to take a step forward. Good luck with your switcheroo.

    • Thank you! I love that you tried so many different things. This is very encouraging! I haven’t tried a contemporary yet. I bet it would be great for my writing! There is something about being uncomfortable that pushes our writing up to a higher level. 😀

  4. Pantsing can be fun. But it’s gotten me in trouble too many times. Too many times I’ve had to leave some really great writing to fester because I wrote myself into a fun – but difficult to escape! – corner. Someday I may try to go back and fix those stories. Ugh…

    Anyway, I hope you have better luck! Everyone is different.

  5. Go for it! And most importantly, have fun. If the writer enjoys writing a story, a reader can sense it–no matter how the writing process was. I’m going to have to head on over and read her article. But I’ve noticed that every story is different. Some want to be plotted. Some are so eager, they don’t scream to be spilled on the page NOW! And other stories, can’t make up their mind. Excited to hear how this one works for you 🙂

    • ^_^ I think I would be scared of a story that wanted me to jump in without anything at all. But if it screamed loud enough…you never know! Them being so different is part of the fun of being a writer though. And speaking of, it’s so, so true…if I’m not having fun, it reeks all over the page.

Hi! ^_^