I’m a Pantster!

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Tomorrow came. Tomorrow became yesterday and then, Tomorrow became last week. I know that I have been remiss. I know that I did not update daily or even weekly. Tomorrow I will do better–that’s what I kept telling myself. Well, here we are, just 7 days from the start of NaNoWriMo, and I  have yet to do much in the way of working on my outline, my characters, or even blog about my writing process.

What I have discovered is that I am a classic Pantster.  What’s a Pantster? Apparently there are two types of writers– Plotters and Pantsters . Plotters write outlines, develop characters, and have a clear idea and direction for their novels. Pantsters on the other hand, basically write by the seat of their pants. We are the ones who wrote our college essays the night (or just hours) before it was due. We crammed the night before exams because we pushed studying off in favor of anything besides studying. We were not necessarily bad students. Some of us got A’s and B’s, while others may have failed miserably. But, we were pretty good at writing those unexpected essay quizzes and exams.

Being a pantster is not necessarily a bad thing, and it is a myth that they cannot be successful writers. Kami Garcia, author of Beautiful Creatures admits to being primarily a pantster who struggles with the beginning of her novels.  I am the type of writer who needs to feel the words formed. I must start every story with pen and paper.  A blank Word document is intimidating. The cursor blinks as if it is laughing at me. Ha Ha Ha Ha….

However, a blank page begs to be filled. The pen feels familiar, comfortable. As it swoops across the page it mimics the sound of waves on a shoreline. Sometimes, rough and loud. Other times, soft and slow. I feel the pressure of my grip on the pen and the cool smoothness of the page caress the side of my hand. It feels like creating art. It feels like the sentences are created through me rather than by me.

So where am I on the novel?

Remember that outline I had mentioned before? The one I spent months working on for NaNoWriMo? I killed it. I set it aside. It was so detailed, that I just can’t use it. I don’t feel anything when I look at it. I can’t seem to flesh out the story from the details.

I was worried that I may never write this novel. I’ve told everyone that I know–including the world via this blog–that I am writing a novel.  I MUST follow through this time. So what did I do? I read short stories, poems, watched a ton of indie films, and listened to music and the conversations of people in public places. I’m not sure if it helped, or hindered. But I did finally come up with a story.

The novel hit me last night while I was trying to fall asleep. For three hours a troubled girl with large, brown eyes and wavy auburn hair tortured me. She wrote letters to family and friends. I didn’t know who she was or why was writing her letters. I could see her clearly. I could hear her thoughts as she wrote the letters. Her name is Lucy. She has something to tell us. Something important. Something dark. Something profound.

I got out of bed and just started writing. I wrote the first paragraph of her story and then I realized who she is, why she is writing the letters, and what she wants the world to know. I gave her story six short plot points in bullet format. Each bullet has two to three sentences.

The working title is Sincerely Yours, Lucy.

The novel is nearing Dawn.

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A Lifelong Love for Words

I’m not certain of the exact moment when I fell in love with words, but I do recall the two books that incited an addiction for reading. The first one was “The Monster at the End of This Book,” featuring Grover from Sesame Street. I read it aloud in my best Grover voice and mimicked his expressions and inflection of certain words. The second book, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss was a bit more complex and insightful and continues to give me wisdom to this day. If you’ve never read the book, you should run out and purchase a copy as soon as possible.

Like most kids of my generation, I read the popular Judy Blume books and “The Babysitters Club” series by Ann M. Martin. However, when I was in the 4th grade, I stumbled across “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein at the library while I was waiting for my mom to finish her work day–no she wasn’t a librarian, though she did love to read! The story made me cry. The librarian asked me if I was okay, and I replied, “yes, but this book made me sad and happy.” I will never forget this librarian. She asked me if I would like to read more books like this one; I enthusiastically said yes. She handed me three books. They were “The Last Flower” by James Thurber, “The Last Unicorn” by Peter S. Beagle, and “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White. I had just discovered Literature and I could not get enough.

Throughout my school years, I read the usual classics that most students dreaded, but I devoured them with enthusiasm. Though I continued to read the mainstream age-appropriate books, I prefered books that used words the way an artist uses paint and ignited not only my imagination, but my emotions and psyche as well. It was not the words in particualr, but rather the intensity of certain phrase that intrigued me. When I was 12, I read the lyrics on the back of a Simon and Garfunkel record because I was bored. The song that induced a lifelong love for poetry was “The Sound of Silence.” I started reading the lyrics of the Beatles, The Doors, and Bob Dylan. By the time my mom got home from work, I had read and listened to nearly all her favorite records.

I dabbled a bit in writing poetry throughout middle and high school. My poetry improved over the years of practice, but I did not consider myself a poet. Though I loved reading, I did not have the patience, dedication, or attention span to write more than a few chapters of a novel. I must have written the first few chapters of about 6 books by the time I was 21. By then, I had given up on being an author. I got married, had two children, and struggled in a tough economy with no hope of ever being more than a receptionist, a wife, and a mother. Not that I think those are unworthy titles to hold–I just wanted more. I was going to be a writer or an actress. I was going to do something amazing and profound with my life.

The truth is, I did do something amazing and profound. I found the love of my life whom I have been married to for almost 19 years. I raised two highly intelligent and politically aware children. I remodeled our first house room by room. I found great joy in cooking; reading; writing poetry, short stories, and essays; DIY projects; and collegiate studies. Now, in the autumn of my life I am finally ready to write that novel. It may not be the next NY Times best seller or listed among the greatest novels of our time, but it will be a novel–my novel. It is my love for words and the English language that drives my lifelong goal, but it will be National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) that forces me to the finish line.

The journey begins now. I hope you will follow along as I share my writing journey with you.