Thursday, June 12, 2008

Han or Leia

"Where do you get your ideas?" is a question writers are frequently asked, and writers I've talked to, when we get together, laugh, because it's usually not the ideas that are the hard part. Because after the idea, *somebody* has to write the damn thing, and the way each writer approaches that task is as unique as a fingerprint, and as chancy as bulls-eyeing womp rats in a T-16.

Among writers, one of the big questions is not "where do you get your ideas?" but rather, once you get those ideas..."Are you a plotter or a pantser?" Now, to the non-writer, the next logical question is, "WTF is a 'pantser' and aren't you supposed to have a better command of the language than to use made-up nonsense words like 'pantser?'" To that non-writer, I say firstly, a pantser is one who pantses. To pants, then, is to navigate the act of creating a novel first and foremost by the seat of one's pants yes, you're absolutely right but we know what we mean when we say 'pantser.'

Over the years, I have swung on the great pendulum--I started out writing without knowing what I was doing (and therefore couldn't be told "ZOMG, ur doin it rong!" Of course, without knowing what I was doing, I couldn't very well know how to get past where I was, either. But through the years and the stories, I've gone back and forth from pantser to plotter to pantser to plotter. I've carefully planned rebellions against the Empire, and I've flown the 'Falcon' with nothing but wookiee spit holding it together.

Where I currently sit, I see a heavy need for myself to be both pantser and plotter. I spend a lot of time noodling out into the dead ends of plots, and kicking myself later because "I coulda been done by now--twice." At the same time, I've carefully outlined a plot from soup to nuts, had scene cards and blocked ideas out and stared down at the thick folder and thought, "I don't want to write this." Or sat down to write it to find that I went in a completely different direction when all was said and done.

What I've found is that my writing process needs to have a balance--I need to just pants it when I have that first burning itch of an idea--to let all the possibilities spill out onto the page, as messy and as ugly as they may be. Once I've got that, comes the real work of taking what my brain vomited up and identifying and refining it into something that is the not-gross equivalent of something one would make out of brain-vomit.

There's a time to plot carefully, to seek out membership in the Imperial Senate, and embark on diplomatic missions to Alderaan. Then there's also a time to make the Kessel run in twelve parsecs, and zoom in out of nowhere to relieve a story of the TIE fighters dogging its X-wing. Putting the two together generates enough creative heat to melt an ice planet.

Many Bothans died to bring you this post...

2 comments:

Savanna Kougar said...

That was entirely fun! Always wanted to fly those fighters!

Xandra Gregory said...

Hee! I always wanted to wear cinnamon buns in my hair. And a gold metal bikini. I think I'd have serious issue, though, if my dad froze my boyfriend in carbonite.