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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Seat of the Pants Writers: Tips and Tricks to Overcoming Challenges

Today, I decided that I would finish off this little mini-rant on how it's okay to be a Seat-of-the-Pants (SOTP) writer. Clearly, I'm feeling defensive about being one myself...but that's another story for another day. I'm working on it. :)
There are some significant disadvantages to being either a plotter or a pantster, but this post will focus on a few techniques, garnered from a SOTP workshop at the ACFW conference, that will offset the SOTP challenges.

1) Writing a synopsis - It's sometimes not good enough to a publisher or agent to give "broad brushstrokes," so when it's not you should tape record yourself talking about your book. You'll be surprised at how much you actually already have thought out about the plot but haven't solidified and written it down anywhere.

2) To offset panic - Remind yourself that you're not writing the entire book today. Instead, write one brief bullet point of what to accomplish the next day, focus on dialogue to keep the scene moving along, research until inspiration strikes, reread what you've written so far to come full circle and get your creative juices flowing. Also, schedule in time to be a SOTP. If you think you can write a book in a year, double it to two. 

3) Look at your first draft as your outline. Anne Lamotte says to write the first drat and expect it to be crummy. Chain your internal editor while writing. You can edit later. Also, don't be too attached to anything you've written, as it'll likely be heavily edited (read: cut) later. Also, don't get hung up on creating chapter ending hooks. This is better as part of the editing process.

4) Rabbit trails and tangents have use! The portions of your story that you had fun writing, that kept the whole project interesting to you, but don't serve to drive the plot forward or keep tension on the page can be "Added Value" to your readers. Put these scenes or chapters on your website to give you readers extra enjoyment as they read the chapter that got cut, or find out the story behind the story.

5) When you're stuck - think about the original conflict. What did you want to write this book in the first place? Whether you know the opening scene and ending scene, or just have an idea for a fantastic climax, revisit the one or two blurps or snatches of plot that first attracted you to the story. 

6) To preserve ideas - WRITE THEM DOWN. Don't let ideas slip by, thinking you'll capture it the following day or even be able to remember it by then.

Ultimately, the way any writer writes a story is to get their rear end in the seat, fingers on the keyboard, and just do the work, but hopefully these tips will help the SOTPer.


Q4U: Do you have any other tricks you'd like me to add to the list? Things that have helped you overcome SOTP challenges?


11 comments:

Miss Sharp said...

Hi everyone. Here's my way of being ready to capture thoughts at any time or place:

Pen and paper.

I do my first draft this way and then when I type it up I also edit it. If I'm at a keyboard first-drafting I stop, use the thesaurus, noodle around the internet and edit, edit, edit.

I like the feel of ink flowing smoothly on paper. I think it helps me creatively because it keeps me going forward.

Or maybe I'm just a delusional old-school tree killer...lol

girlseeksplace said...

Great tips here. I'm flying by the seat of my pants for NaNo this year and it makes me kind of nervous. I am planning to write the story scene by scene and then go back and put it together when I get it all written, but beyond that, I've got nothing.

phyllis sweetwater said...

I have to disagree with hooks at chapter endings. Sometimes I revolve my whole chapter on the hook at the end. I'm always thinking, what will entice the reader to keep going? If I were a reader would this bore me?
Sometimes my mind goes blank in the middle of a scene, so I just drop it and move to the next scene. That way I keep my momentum going.

Jennifer K. Hale said...

I am SO glad that you took such good notes! I had to leave in the middle of this session for an appointment so I missed a lot, but I got caught up by reading this! Thanks, J!
SOTP writers unite! (Should we make t-shirts??) :)

Gail Shepherd said...

These are good tips. I wrote my first novel SOP, and I've got a detailed outline for the second. So I guess I'll figure out what my method is by the third...

kristen said...

i love the idea of keeping your interesting chapters and putting them on your website. Kind of like the cut scenes on a DVD. How fun!
Thanks
Kristen

mplanck said...

These are great tips! I'm forwarding this on to some writer friends! :-) Alice

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

jenny -

definitely should make t-shirts.

"SOTP Writers Unite--ooh, shiny!"

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

alice! are you SOTP? Scattered Pieces read like a memoir of sorts, which i would think would lend itself well to SOTP writing.

Susanne Dietze said...

I'm not a SOTP writer, but I like your tips! Thanks for the post, Jeannie.

augustmclaughlin said...

Terrific and original pointers. Thanks!

I also recommend 'getting it all out,' meaning not judging what comes out in the first draft. You can always cut characters, plot points and sentences later... Over-thinking can stall the writing process big time.

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Both comments and questions are welcome. I hope you enjoyed your time on the couch today.