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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Seat of the Pants: Pros and Cons

I'm continuing my post from yesterday on being a Seat of the Pants (SOTP) writer...and being PROUD of it! Karen Ball called us the "pinballs of publishing," because we don't see things in a linear way. We bounce around, seeing things in possibilities...kinda like we have attention deficit disorder.

Typically, SOTP writers engage in more than one writing project at a time. For me, I usually am writing my monthly article for CFOM, I write blog posts galore, I write on my WIP (or two or three), pound out a prologue for yet another book that I can't get out of me get the idea. We get caught up in the next shiny thing.

However, Karen was quick to point out that our ADD doesn't mean that we're not intelligent or that we can't focus or stick to something or aren't able to finish something. Having one to many irons in the fire is just the way we stay interested.

There is a cost, of course, to this creativity and freedom. It's called REWRITING. Many times, we'll be writing along and then have this excellent idea that we need to incorporate. This requires extensive rewriting. Or while we're writing, our secondary character all of a sudden decides to take the stage by storm, and we go with it, saying, "Hmm...wonder what he's going to do?" only later to delete it because it added nothing to the story.

Another drawback to not plotting is that we will paint ourselves into a corner and have no idea why we are there, how we got there, or where we are planning on going. (In other words, STUCK.) This is really bad when you're 200 pages into the novel and your deadline is upon you, but that's another drawback. Deadlines have a tendency to whoosh right on by, since SOTPers don't really think or write on a schedule, per se.

Writing a synopsis is darn well near impossible. Many publishers want to know up front what the books are going to be about, yet the SOTP writer only knows what the book will be about in broad brushstrokes, not specifics. This can be even more difficult when they want to know your synopses for a series!

Why, you might ask, should we want to have anything with being a SOTP? Oh, there are too many reasons to name (but I'll try):

  • Creativity - you never know what you're getting into. It's "new every morning."
  • Characters unfold and surprise you - and you take them deeper with each unveiling. 
  • We brainstorm and think on our feet and we've got good instincts...that we should trust!
  • We're flexible - not stuck on any one trajectory.
  • Don't have writer's block quite as often.
  • We're excited about what we're writing, and that excitement translates to the page.
  • We have more texture oftentimes to your writing, as we take characters deeper and deeper with each rewrite.

There are things we can do ahead of time (best practices) to offset the downsides to being a SOTP, and I'll go into that tomorrow. See you then!

Q4U: What are some other positives or possible downsides to being an SOTP?


Jessica Nelson said...

OH YES. I probably should've gone to that class. I think I signed up for it but can't remember why I didn't go.
Anyway, yes, lots of rewriting for me. Blech.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jeannie!

It was great to see you at conference! Love this blog. :)

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

thanks joy! i'm a follower of yours now, too! :)

Jaleh D said...

I definitely have writer's ADD. I have 4 novels going, a few different short stories (though only one on my mind right now, the others are more for fun at this point), and I'm participating in a Torg roleplaying game/co-writing adventure with a bunch of friends that we started in August. (Doing it on a forum and the culture clash we just had was so much fun!)

But I'm not a strictly SOTP writer. I used to be, but now I've started creating brainstorming chapter summaries before writing them out. It helps me with plotting since that's my weak area.

But yes, having multiple projects lets me go work on something else when I've narrowed my focus too closely on one story or get stuck. Oftentimes, while I'll working on something else, I'll get a brain flash over the problem area. And because I love all my MCs, I'm excited to revisit them.

And oh the rewrites. My first major novel has gone through so much rewriting and I'm only halfway through at the farthest point, not counting the climax that was the inspiration of the whole thing. But even when I've left it alone for several months, I keep coming back to it.

I suppose I do pretty much match the SOTP mentality with a few plotting tools added in for balance. Love your descriptions. And I'm glad I don't have any deadlines right now other than the one I gave myself regarding my short story. I'd probably be way past them otherwise.

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