Words From a True Pantser

In the midst of a blink at times, you come across a magical moment where a problem and a solution meet in a cross-point. Sparkles and fireworks light up the gloom created by said problem, and the world makes a little more sense again.

Rambles, rambles. Let me get to the point. This equilibrium blessed me recently.

Novel writing is a chore (one I love, never doubt that) and as much fun as it is there will inevitably be moments in the process when the confidence takes a bashing for no apparent reason and makes a head-dive dip into lower levels. For me, this exact thing occurred as I realised my plot line was flawed, characters were not fully developed, and the story symmetry was not up to scratch.

I found an explanation: it’s just the way I write. I write a draft and then another, and another, and another, until I reach a level of contentment (or time constraint depending on the situation). And for some reason I labelled this method unprofessional and a failure.

Until I came across Jennifer Lesher’s fabulous blog post, that is. She talks about Plotters and Pantsers, terms I’ve now found out are old news, but I’d never heard of before.

She writes:

If you’re a Pantser your initial round of sustained effort will most likely produce a lot of words, words that hew to a vague plotline.

And here I was thinking I was doing something wrong!!! In an instant all my doubt was cast off and a sense of belief once again seeped into my writing. Silly, I know, but true nonetheless. Without Lesher’s post I would most likely still mentally beat at myself for being a substandard writer.

Here’s the morale: whether it’s about Plotting/Pantsing or another aspect of writing, it’s okay to be different (or, in this case, not different at all).

A creative mind works in mysterious ways and I’m quite sure that writers as a group are far too quick to deem themselves not-good-enough. We are among the most insecure kind of people I’ve come across and that’s a shame because there are so many brilliant ones out there!

To write anything substantial requires guts, and plenty of it. Stephen King, for example, is a hell of a gutsy writer – and also a Pantser! How about that?

Be brave, be daring, and be creative. Know the rules and then break them gleefully. Me, I’m off to write the next two thirds of my first novel. Full on Pantser-style!


Find Jennifer Lesher’s excellent article HERE !


Review: 11.22.63 (King)

It’s refreshing to read this kind of original work: 11.22.63 (2011) by Stephen King is a fantastic historical story in many ways with time travel, political ideology, and then nostalgia at heart.

Jake Epping, a high school English teache
r, is set a mission by his dying friend Al – use the ‘rabbit hole’ which takes you back to 1958, hang around there for 5 years, then stop the Kennedy assassination.

Living in the past presents some problems, obviously, and King lets his main character discover them the hard way. We see Jake relish in the ‘good ol’ days’ but also get his fair share of intratextual metaphorical bitch-slaps of the downsides of the 60s, as well as the past fighting tooth and nail to protect itself from the impending change.

King is well known for his pictorial depictions of the US and, like some critic said about this novel, you feel like he’s got his own rabbit hole and only describes what he’s seen himself. It’s more than an image – it’s a feeling, a deep throbbing, where the mentality and psychology of the long-gone characters – of reality itself – comes to the surface in his verbal art. Yet, it is balanced and only as detailed as it needs to be. I’d do some highly dubious things to have King’s vocabulary (and it’s one of the reasons why I read his books!) and any writer would do well to learn from him.

However, once I finished the last page of this brick of a book, I felt like I’d run a marathon. Exhausted, tired, relieved.

The final section after the climax is too long and too much of a digression. King manages to squeeze in his trademark WTF part, from which he has nobly restrained himself in the other 700 pages (where, for example, a lot of the physics of time travelling are left untouched). The apocalyptic chapters in the end seem contrived and over-indulgent when the rest of the novel has kept its SF features so realistic and close to heart.

Nevertheless, King has done some remarkable research for this novel, all the while admitting that he’s taken liberties with the temporal order of events to fit his story. It only seems suitable for a novel which deals with time and the manipulation of it.