Sunday, April 22, 2012

Adventures in Outlining

I've been saying for years that I am a certified "Pantser."

For those of you who don't know what that means, it's a writer who does it by the seat of their pants.  You get an idea and you just start writing.  Sometimes the magic works and you end up with an amazing story that you never dreamed would have appeared from the little idea you had to start with.  Much more often, for me, at least, you end up a few thousand words in with no idea where you are going, lost in a hazy blur of confusion and paths that circle back on themselves as if they're magnetically repelled from a coherent, satisfying ending.

Reaching this point time after time becomes disheartening, frustrating, and can develop into a self-fulfilling prophecy.  It's gotten to the point where when I start something, I assume it's going to hit that wall.

It's time to do something about it.

I've tried outlining before.  It's like speaking a foreign language.  (Harder, actually--I'm pretty good with languages.)  Once, I completed an outline and used it to finish a novel.  There were a few spots where I veered off the outline-dictated course, but I managed to reroute myself back onto it with some actual improvements.  Because of this example, I know that I can do it.  What's difficult is finding the discipline to wait.  No saying, "Wow!  What a neat idea!  I need to write about that right now."

My last adventure in outlining lasted approximately a month.  I had the core idea, then I spent the month of October walking in parks, sitting in the bathtub, or simply lying in bed before falling asleep, thoroughly thinking through the ramifications of the idea.  What characters go with it?  What is the beginning?  More importantly, what is the end?  How do they get there?  What changes do the characters go through on the journey?

Utilizing patience, a concept that eludes and fuddles me to this day, is the key.  It's time to embrace a change.  If I want to write another novel--and I do--throwing myself at it blindly isn't going to work.  I have several files full of permanently stalled beginnings as evidence.  It's time to slow down.  Time to think.  Time to approach writing in a different way.

I'll report back on my progress.  And in case anyone was wondering, yes, this is scary, but I believe the rewards will outweigh the risks.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Norwescon 35

I spent this last weekend at Norwescon 35, held at the Doubletree Hotel in SeaTac.  Norwescon is a vibrant convention full of creative, enthusiastic people.  It's something I look forward to each year (although if it were held on a weekend other than Easter, it would be even better.)

I had two short stories in the Writers Workshop hosted by the Fairwood Writers, both in round robin sessions.  The level of comments was high and I found myself both encouraged with the responses people had to my work and eager to incorporate many of the suggestions I received.

What was an eye-opener for me was just how many people I actually know in the local writing community.  When I started attending Norwescon many years ago, I felt like a complete novice--shy, unconfident, and solitary.  Now, I recognize many of the people around me at the panels and can greet them by name.  I've read at least some of their work.  I'm more confident in my own writing and I'm no longer a wallflower.  It's been a slow transition, but I really noticed it this year.

The best thing about Norwescon, aside from the actual workshopping process, is simply being in company with a large number of people who share the same passion and creative energy.  It's like plugging yourself into a psychic battery.  I come out fully charged and ready to forge ahead with my writing at full speed.

One of my two workshopped stories has already been edited and submitted and I expect the next to follow by the end of the week.  Then, it will be time to focus on new production.