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!!”
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.