I’ve been trying to become more of a plotter than a pantser. Really trying this time. I’ve read Libbie Hawker’s book TAKE OFF YOUR PANTS: Outline Your Books For Faster, Better Writing four times. And it all makes sense. It really, truly strikes a deep cord in my brain. I did what she said and filled out flaws and goals, and it felt awesome until BAM. I hit a wall. Months ago. It’s like I get so many pieces into place, and then I can’t get any further until I write the scenes. It’s as if I know it will change when I write it down. I can’t shape any more pieces until the people actually do, say, and feel. Until *I* feel my way through it. (This may explain why I’m not good at chess.)
So I stopped trying to outline, and I wrote a synopsis instead. None of my books have actually resembled their synopses by the time I got done with them, but I was determined this time. I wrote a complete synopsis. It got a little wiggly at the end, but it still felt like a victory. A synopsis is kind of like an outline, but with more words, right? I felt like I’d earned the right to put on my writing pants and drive in my comfort zone.
I decided to write 1660 words a day, so I could finish a rough draft in mid-October, just in time for the Western New York Romance Writers retreat. I’d dig in and edit like crazy all weekend. So I did 1660 words a day for 12 days and BAM. Hit another wall.
I’ve always compared my pants-ing process to an iceberg. I can only see the tip. The rough draft is all the other stuff emerging. I can’t see it until I write it. And even then it’s crap until I edit the hell out of it. I have these characters and these plans, and I write all this shit, so much shit I get lost in the middle of it, like I did in September, and think to myself, “Jesus Christ, where the hell am I? What is this? This is shit.” And I stop writing. BAM. Wall. Helloooooooo.
But before I started my plotting kick, and before I abandoned it and started pants-ing again, I acknowledged something. This is the book I will regret if I don’t write. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I’ve put it off because of other contracts. It’s been back-burnered for so long there are things growing in the pot that are fascinating. This world is huge and deep. I can’t give up, or I will hate myself. I don’t have a choice, not if I KNOW I’ll lie on my deathbed and think about that book I was afraid to write. Hells to the NO.
So I started editing. And it’s coming together. I’m discovering things. Things that will work in later books. I see what I meant to write but couldn’t quite make out while I was in plotting or pantsing headspace. I’m walking on the top of my walls.
And I know all this stuff. I’ve been a member of the Romance Writers of America for ten years, writing longer than that and published since 2010. I’m a craft workshop junkie. I love Candace Havens’s Fast Draft Workshop, Laura Baker and Robin Perini’s Discovering Story Magic, Michael Hague’s Story Mastery, and the aforementioned TAKE OFF YOUR PANTS! I am slavishly devoted to Kristen Lamb’s blog Warrior Writers. I know I’m supposed to take what works for me from any writing advice and abandon the rest. I’m a firm believer in “Butt In Chair.” You must do the work. Work until the muse shows up. Work when she (or he) doesn’t. And STILL I am surprised by what a headfuck the process is for me. STILL I think plotting is a superior, less time-consuming practice. STILL I fear this is easier for other writers. STILL I’m learning new things about my writing brain. I like the idea that my brain works best in editing mode because it frees me up to continue trying to plot and write sucky synopses. It allows me to puke out rough drafts. Maybe I’ll wake up in ten years and have a more streamlined process. I can always hope! But until then I’ll just keep coming at my walls from a different angle until I get up and over.
So what’s my point? I’ll let you know after I edit this. Just kidding. (Not really.)
My point: I’ve finished eleven published manuscripts under two different names. I can finish and polish a book. But it’s never easy for me. Maybe all those other writers are just making it LOOK easy on FB and Twitter. Maybe I’VE made it look easy, but it’s NOT. I’ve been reading romance novels since before I understood the birds and the bees. I understand story on an instinctive level. I know when it’s good, and I know when it works. And Libbie Hawker’s Pants-off approach makes total sense to me. But you know what? I CAN’T DO IT. My brain rebels. But I’ll try it with another book. I can’t tell you how many times during the past ten years I’ve heard a writer who wants to be published has to be persistent. Because of all the rejection, you know. However, I’m learning it’s even more important to be RESILIENT. To bounce back from failing. Failing to write. Failing to plot. Failing to not eat all the chocolate pretzel pie in the house. Failing to not beat myself up when I don’t hit my daily word count.
I’ve heard I need to develop a thicker skin so many times I’ve lost count. Guess what? It ain’t gonna happen. I’m 43. This skin is wrinkling, not getting thicker. But goddamn I can bounce back in there when life has taken me out of the story for so long I don’t remember what’s going on. I can bounce when I fail to plot, write, and synopse (I just created a new verb!). I can re-flate. I can get UP. And bounce at my walls from a different angle. Because they are MY walls. I made them. I can break them.
And so can you.
Embrace the bounce. Stop being hard on yourself. Failure happens. Don’t keep yourself down when it does. BOUNCE. Get back in there and do the stuff you want to do. Regret sucks worse than failure. You CAN do hard things.
But if you want to bitch about how hard it is to do the thing you want to do, feel free to use the comments section. I’m here! I’m up. I’m down. I’ll encourage your bounce. Let’s encourage each other. 🙂