Flying by the seat of your plans

Go ahead and groan at the bad pun. I deserve it. Today’s topic is: I forgot it’s my turn to blog. But that’s okay. I am a master pantser, which is writer-speak for ad-libber. The tiniest thing can inspire. Some oddly-shaped food remnants, an unusual hairstyle or an out-of-context remark from the person in front of me at the grocery store are all I need to get the creative juices flowing. When that fails, the Hemingway method of alcohol use is always a good standby.

However, rosé doesn’t taste so hot with corn flakes, as I discovered long ago. I’m still okay; I have plenty of angst to pull from this morning.

I have recently discovered the shortcomings of the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants method; namely, that you might be missing some important elements, like a cohesive plot. Or the climax had the nerve to show up a hundred pages too early. Or the antagonist went soft and is too likable. That’s when it’s time to bite the bullet, gird your loins and look your Achilles heel straight in the eye, which is easier said than done since most heels don’t have eyes. If yours does, please be mindful of others and keep it hidden beneath a sock.

Once you have stopped wasting time by filling your blog with cliches, the real work begins. Take the lovely story you’ve dreamed up and shove it through the horrible, stiff thing that is sometimes known as structure. I used to call it a novel girdle, but people were disappointed to see it had nothing to do with racy undergarments. You do this so that the right things happen at the right times and your audience gets a satisfying experience.

I am suffering through this tortuous experience in the midst of the process now and wish I had access to the wish-granting genie who bestows this amazing ability on the plotters of this world. I see how how it would save so much time to know when to make things happen. I have not this talent.

If someone were to say, Write me out a scene using exactly one quarter of the allotted pages to set up the problem, the next quarter on developing that issue, peak the conflict at the right moment, and then resolve the dilemma in the shortest time possible because no one has any attention span today and they’re not going to stick around for any moral of the story, my mind goes completely blank. Not to mention I am more turned off than if someone commanded me to climax on cue.

I felt like pitching a fit and yelling, ‘You want drama! I’ll give you drama!’ whilst hurling my manuscript off a cliff (a metaphorical one, because I would never toss my beloved Mac). But then I calmed down, read some stuff about how to plot and now have an idea how to fix this mess.

Too early to say if this whole ‘structure’ and ‘planning’ thing will work, but at least I’m sitting calmly before this machine and not paying a hefty fine for littering and/or committing more crimes against literature.

I accept my limitations, that I have to ‘waste’ some time on just letting my mind flap around, free as bird, happy and unrestrained by anything like laws of reality. Wile E. Coyote could have learned a thing or two from me; namely, that sometimes it’s smarter not to look down.

When I’m done freewheeling, then I also have to accept that if I ever want anyone else to admire my creation, I’m going to have to rope that sucker in and cage it, wash it off and fluff it so that it looks like a bird and not a tornado-blown mass of feathers and other random bits.

The moral of this story is: there isn’t one. Haven’t you heard? No one sticks around to read the end credits.


One thought on “Flying by the seat of your plans

  1. Oh wow, I feel your pain! I am a pantser and often discover that I have left out an important part of character motivation at the beginning or something. I can plot a very vague outline, but the idea of diagramming and arcing and lines everywhere brings me out in hives. I’d rather put pen to paper and have fun with a scene. That being said, sometimes inspiration avoids me like I’m poxed, so… hives or pox??

    Liked by 1 person

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