Thursday, October 10, 2013

October Theme: October Sky
By Marcia Thornton Jones

Pantsers enjoy the surprise of discovery and say jumping in without a plan guarantees fresh writing. They argue that anything smelling of an outline inhibits creativity and stifles voice. They opt to write by the seats of their pants.
Unlike pantsers, planners prefer a roadmap comprised of character sketches, outlines, and sometimes even the ending. They argue that having a plan keeps their writing focused and ensures a cohesive whole.
Lately I’ve been researching strategies for structuring novels with the goal of developing a more systematic approach to writing; mostly because I’m the type of pantser writer who starts out gung-ho and then fizzles about fifty pages into a draft. That, and a bunch of recent rejections. I don’t want to stifle voice or inhibit discovery, but I do want to find a more efficient and confident process for writing.
But does planning and outlining inhibit creativity? Or can a plan’s structure enhance it?
What does this have to do with the October SMACK DAB theme for a creative entry using ‘October Sky’? All the ideas we batted around were good:

·         Using the first line of a favorite published work as a jumping off point
·         Starting with a girl on a swing at midnight
·         Creative entries about things that go bump in the night
·         The October sky as a central theme

The more we brainstormed, the more intrigued I grew by the challenge of finding a connection between them all; some unifying element. I wanted to figure out a way to combine them into something more than their individual parts. I am not an artist, by any means, but I do like to journal. As I doodled I discovered that the separate ideas formed a structure within which to create something totally unexpected.
Which brings me back to the whole pantser vs. planner debate. It seems to me that having some kind of plan—like a general idea of character transformation, a series of obstacles and events, or even disparate concepts to be worked into a thematic piece—provides boundaries within which to cultivate creativity and discovery. The goal is to provide a map that provides direction for my muse—but not to the point of suffocating her. That way if she finds an interesting detour between the beginning and the ending she’ll feel confident enough to take a side trip and see where it leads—but without getting totally lost doing it.
So while I’m not really a pantser, I’m not a strict planner, either. I guess you might say I’m a pantsed planner!

12 comments:

  1. I think what you do is what is called organic outlining. You like to have somewhat of a plan, but you're open to changes throughout the process. That's how I am, too; frankly, that's how most plotters are. I have a more detailed plan than you do, but the writing process is what brings out ideas I never planned for. So I alter my outline accordingly. Planning jumpstarts my creativity, and writing enhances it!

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

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    1. Exactly...structure can provide space for creativity to flourish. My book WRITING KIDS BOOKS: PLANNING THE PERFECT BOOK (due out in 2014) is all about creating within structure.

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  2. WOW. LOVE that image. And I know exactly what you mean about creating a "map." I've been working on that myself lately...

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    1. Thanks, Holly. The doodle was fun...good luck with your mapping.

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  3. I think sometimes the best thing to do is to start knowing the beginning, and the ending (that's the plan) and then discover what happens in the middle. Lovely post! X Jane http://janeheinrichs.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks. Writing between bookends is a great strategy for the muse!

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  4. That "doodle" is gorgeous. I write very messy first drafts and then outline them to find structure. It does help me to keep going when I can remind myself that the first draft is supposed to be soft and mushy.

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    1. Thanks. Doodling is meditative and the results always surprise me...just like my stories. Soft and mushy drafts are the clay from which beautiful artwork is sculpted!

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  5. Beautiful doodle! Like you, I have a loose plan, but let myself take side trips when something strikes me. I love those moments!

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    1. Thanks. Those ah-ha moments are what its all about!

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  6. This was incredibly motivating. Thank you!

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  7. I'm so glad it resonated with you!

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