Friday, May 27, 2011

Plotting Vs. Pantsing

pauly-want-a-pantsingOkay. For my last few NaNoWriMo novels (Steam Palace, Dead Air) and my screenplay, I’ve been a plotter. Meaning, I’ve plotted out most of the major scenes and turning points of the story. Plotting is a process by which you can create a roadmap for your story so you don’t spend time exploring dead ends or trying to ram a character into a situation that “needs” to happen. I’m a firm believer in plotting as a way to do a lot of the structural work of the story before you sit down and write it. It’s particularly effective for Nano or Script Frenzy since whatever work you do beforehand is that much less you need to do as you’re writing.

So I have a confession to make. For Girl World, I… pantsed it! *cringe* Don’t hit me!

Okay, in fairness, it’s not like I sat down on Day One and wrote a novel from scratch. I’ve had the concept in my head since December. I’ve written a few thousand words of backstory, written from the 1st person POV of the main character. In fact, I didn’t start out to write a novel at all.

That’s the thing. It just happened. I would write a scene, figuring I could stop, but suddenly the next scene would come to me just like that. It’s like a mythical Muse sat on my shoulder directing my thoughts, telling me the story in my head. I knew in the back of my mind that there would be an Ordeal. I knew there would be a Climactic scene at the end. I had about four ideas of where the story would go, but it went in its own direction.

And frankly, I think it’s the best story (first-draft) I’ve written, way better than last year’s NaNoWriMo (Dead Air).

I think part of it is becoming crucially aware of elements of story-telling such as Story Structure, Conflict, and Characterization. My characters have deep, desperate needs, fears, and desires. They are faced with impossible choices. And it doesn’t hurt that this is essentially a superhero story. Grett discovers she has secret powers…powers that can hurt the ones she loves if used improperly. So there’s the eternal temptation to use your superpowers to your advantage.Which is why my main character must have a firm moral grounding. It’s a classic YA theme.

So now what? How do I feel about the whole plotting vs. pantsing debate? Pretty mixed. I think it helped that I planned this story to be short. There’s only one POV. There are very few subthreads. Maybe this is the way to go in the future. We’ll see. There have been some stories that I’ve pantsed (The Immortals) that stalled because I didn’t know where the story should go. 

I guess the lesson here is just do what feels right.

Monday, May 23, 2011

So I Wrote Another Novel…In a Week…

alien hairThe hell with NaNoWriMo. Who needs 30 days when it only takes 10 or so?

Yes, I’ve spent the last few days furiously writing a new story. Yeah, I was kind of planning to write this particular story for NaNo, but I’m taking a writing class and I thought it would be fun to bring in some new material instead of rehashing Steam Palace all the time. So I wrote a chapter a couple weeks ago. Then I had another opportunity to share and I started writing another chapter, and the concept hooked me so much that I literally could not stop writing it.

Some of you might remember this post about my “Girl World” concept:
Every New Beginning

Go ahead, re-read it. I’ll wait. Done? That’s the story I wrote. One female main character. Three female main supporting characters. About 10 more named female characters. One boy. One evil man. And a head of alien hair. 45K words (yeah, a little short for NaNo, but tons of space for revisions!)

Here’s the three-sentence “teaser” I came up for it:

When human/alien hybrid Grett Hawk has a bad hair day, her hair tries to strangle her and murder her classmates. It’s already infected her best friend with alien DNA behind her back. Grett must learn to master her alien side before it wrecks her family and invites a destructive alien invasion force into their city.

Yeah, I know. Where’s the “Girl World” part of it?

Let’s try a longer version.

After a devastating fire destroys her school, Grett Hawk, an ordinary warrior girl, must transfer to a exclusive academy full of stuck-up city princesses and scientific wizardesses. She’s intimidated until she discovers a secret—she can control the color, length, and texture of her own hair…and her hair responds to her thoughts. Her new wizardess friend Brin uncovers the truth: Grett is far from ordinary. She is an alien/human hybrid living in a city of humans, with the ability to alter any part of her body at will. But sometimes, her alien side takes over and acts without Grett’s conscious knowledge, such as injecting Brin with alien DNA…or trying to slice Brin’s head off when she gets too close to learning Grett’s true nature. Together, they seek to find out who Grett is and why she has been sent here, and why there is a boy in town with the same abilities as Grett, a boy whose kisses ignite the fire in Grett’s semi-alien heart.

GIRL WORLD is a 45,000 word YA Science Fiction novel set in a far futuristic world where males are nearly extinct.

Okay, I don’t love that. Well, I still have a few revisions to go before I need to worry about a query letter. BTW that picture is how I imagine Brin and Grett…at least before Grett’s hair goes crazy.