Flying by the Seat of my Pants: Are You a Pantser or Plotter?

I am such a pantser!

A total pantser. Not a plotter do I want to be.  Pantser-vs-Planner

I don’t go around plotting the de-pantsing of the waistline challenged. No, that’s not what I’m talking about here. I write of the writer who writes with no plot in mind. Well, at least not a by-the-numbers plot, anyway.

Of course I have a beginning and an end in mind, but I prefer the meandering path that my characters tend to take me on. At times, I do have to rein them in, because they can get a little crazy (although, that’s not always a bad thing), and get them back on a more direct path.

About two weeks ago, my characters grabbed me by the belt loops and yanked really hard. They were so excited about a little plot  twist they wanted to show me. Yeah, it was good, so I jotted it down for when I get to that point in my book. When will I get there you ask? I’ll know it when I do. That’s what being a pantser is all about.

I don’t get out the note cards, or dry erase board, or cover my wall in Post It notes (I do have a dry erase board covered in sticky notes and a couple of note cards), or hang poster boards with my story written from beginning to end. That’s just not my style. I listen to my characters, let them have their say, sometimes let them have their way. I hope for the best. That a good story will emerge from the chaos in my head. But, if it doesn’t, I will take a step back and do a little off-the-cuff plotting to connect the dots and then continue on my writerly ramble.

I love my plotter friends, don’t misunderstand. Neither method is right or wrong. It’s all in the way our brains work. I get a kick out of reading the plot board in my critique partners office. It works for her. The notes on my aforementioned board say things like check out this band, your character ________ says, __________, this would be a good blog title, remember this quote.

Very random stuff.

At some point in my novel, I will go back and look at it chapter by chapter. See if the characters have led me into any gaping holes. It’ll be looked at by my critique groups and beta readers. Then it will go on to an editor who will most definitely find the error of my comma usage (and probably other grammar infractions). In the mean time, I’m happily pantsing my way through this story and thoroughly enjoying the ride.

For those of you who are writers, what’s your style and why? For those who have other goals in life, how do you approach them. Are you a pantser? Or, are you a plotter?

Hang on to your belt loops and your story boards!

RGPantserquote-Bradbury

How Social Are You?

I feel like a slacker. Not overall, just when it comes to social networking.

I kept up better when I wasn’t working full time. Now it seems that I go to work, come home, cook dinner, clean up dinner, and then, if it’s not a snbuttonscritique night, I sit down to the computer. It’s at that point that I have to decide if I’m going to try to squeeze in some Facebook, Pinterest, WordPress, Twitter, LinkedIn, and/or the many Like for Like events on the afore mentioned FB, as well as writing.

Writing almost always wins out, which could be on one of two novels. One which is in revision, the other which is just beginning. Or, it could be on a short story, two of which I have written, but need revising, one at about the mid-point, and a couple that haven’t made it past the notes stage. To say my mind is busy might be a tad of an understatement. It pretty much goes all the time.

I can hear some “What about the weekends?”

To which I reply, trying to get things done that I haven’t been able to during the week, plus write, plus anything that comes up that might throw off the whole “plan” for the weekend, which my friend Murphy is always happy to provide a wrench for.

And, “You’ve got a smart phone, post, etc. on that.”

(the buzzer sounds) Think again. I can get quick things in. Nothing like a blog. Not to mention that there is no connecting of personal devices to the wifi at work, so lunchtime SN is nonexistent, well, at best, slow. I do not post, text, or otherwise endanger my life or others while driving and most stops involve doing what I came for and getting out as quickly and with as little crowd/human contact as possible. No, I’m not phobic, but outside my friends and family I often find masses of people a bit disconcerting/annoying/unnecessary. What can I say, I’m an introvert, who can social-networking-images-1flip that social switch when needed, but prefer the serenity that alone time affords. Also, I hate shopping and errand running even though they are a sometimes necessary evil.

And “Well, you don’t have to have eight hours of sleep do you?”

To which I answer, no, and I don’t. With the exception of early childhood, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten eight consecutive hours of sleep that wasn’t forced by parents or sickness.

And, my favorite, “They say you have to, so you’ve got to make time to do it.”

“Meh. Who’s they? And, ‘have to/got to’ makes me want to do just the opposite. I understand that it’s a good thing to develop a following and interact with other writers, but I want to write and work on my writing and I don’t want to post that I had Wheaties for breakfast, or went to the dentist, or other personal inanities. I don’t mind publicly thanking a group of friends, or celebrating a success or milestone, or promoting someone’s work.

Other’s can post what they like, but for me, I have to choose what gives and what I have time for. So, I’ll be selective in my social networking. I will answer direct tweets when I can, save Pinterest for waiting in doctor’s/dentist’s offices or other waiting situations, blog when I can, post/answer/view/like on Facebook as I can.Vintage-Social-Networking

How social are you when it comes to social media and networking? What are your tricks for fitting it into your day or time management scheme? And, for those of you who are writers, do you have a day job and, if so, how do you social network, plus write, plus handle the day to day?

Open to suggestions – RG

Science Fiction/Science Fact

I know that Mother’s Day was a month ago, but since then, I’ve been thinking about technology.

How many of you remember The Jetson’s?

Star Trek is easier because they’re still squeezing out movies based on the science fiction of Gene Roddenberry.

I know the comparisons have been made before, but I want to tell you how this has affected me.

My daughter is in the UK going to school. My parents are in another state. Until recently, contact has been by phone, e-mail, text, or other means of written, faceless communication.

This Mother’s Day was unique. I Facetimed with both my daughter, my mother, and my sister. Not simultaneously, as there is a time difference you know.

Skype

Skype

iPad/Phone - Facetime

iPad/Phone – Facetime

Before I left the house to meet my son for lunch and Iron Man III (which was awesome, by the way), I Facetimed with my daughter. I love this program. It’s made the world a whole lot smaller. I can see my daughter, who is over 3,000 miles away, in real time. I have to mention Skype as well, can’t forget that.

While my son and I were having lunch, my sister called. “Do you have Facetime? I’m taking my iPad to Mom & Dad’s and we could Facetime. I’ll be there in five. I’ll text you.” She said all this without a breath and barely paused for me to say “Yes, but I’m at a restaurant, I’ll have to get a Wi-Fi connection.” FYI, this is at the mall, need I say more.

While I’m connecting, this text comes. “It’s not working.”

By now my son is laughing.

I text back. “Connecting, give me a sec.”

Less than a second later. “Still not working.” Another nanosecond, my phone rings. “It’s not working.”

“I’m trying to connect, you need to give me time. I will contact you.”

“Okay.” Click

I get the box telling me I’m connected do I agree to the terms of use? Just as I click ‘I agree,’ the phone vibrates in my hand.

“It’s still not working.” My sister is not known for patience.

I calmly connect to Facetime and wait for her to respond. My son chuckling the whole time.

“You got it to work! That’s so awesome. What did you do?”

“I got a Wi-Fi connection, like I said.”

This zips right past her and she’s shoving her iPad in my parents’ faces.

My parents are in their mid-eighties. My mother seemed to think the pad was one of those photo frames and kept pointing at us, obscuring the camera. My dad, who has always been fascinated with technology, takes it and keeps turning it this way and that. All that aside, it was nice to be able to see them while we talked. I hope we do the same thing for Father’s Day.

We still still flock to movies and watch shows that are considered science fiction even though we have much of the technology in our hands. Is it me, or do these forms of entertainment have a more present day feel to them? As if you could step on the Starship Enterprise and feel right at home.

On another note, I have to mention the other science fictionyfact (yep, I made that up) that Jean-Luc Picard was often shown with . . .

Kindle/Nook/Reader

Kindle/Nook/Reader

Gives a whole new meaning to having your nose in a book.

How has Facetime/Skype made your world a little smaller? How do you feel about that?

You have the Com, ~ RG

I HAVE AN ANNOUNCEMENT!

This Saturday, June 15th, I will have an author interview with Lisa Fender and Toni Burns, co-authors of Fable, Book 1 of the Lorn Prophecy. Don’t miss this stop on their blog tour!

The Fullness of Life ~ More Random Musings by RG

I was going to say that I’ve been busy, but the truth is, my life has been full.Thomas Edison

It kicked off the weekend of the fifth with First Friday (a monthly celebration in different parts of the Denver Metro area) and a visit to the Santa Fe Drive Art District. I attended with two of my fellow authors, one of whom is an amateur photographer. We had a blast. We all agreed that the first place we visited, was our favorite. It was the most avante garde of all the galleries and was a studio space as well. These were the true “starving” artists. However, there was a more trendy artgallery that had a couple of artists that really appealed to me too.

The next day was the last workday for the local high school’s after prom. My son also came over for dinner, and I had a cupcake exchange party to go to. If you’ve never been to one of these parties, I would suggest you go, or have one. Several of us made cupcakes, had a tasting, had a winner for most beautiful and best tasting, and then exchanged the different cupcakes. It was a lot of fun and if you want your wife/husband, girlfriend/boyfriend/partner, mom/dad to bring home a variety of lovely cupcakes for you to try (or just eat) attend or send them to one of these parties. The event was put on by D & P Celebrations and they provided the decor, scoring sheets, and fun things to do. It was attended by Sarah, of Sarah and Brad Photography, who took our pictures holding various silly props to our faces. Here is a look at the cupcake spread (This is my picture, so you know why it’s crappy. Sarah’s can be found at her link). Please check out D & P Celebrations. They have really cute paper party goods and an Etsy store from which to buy them.112

The following Monday, I spent my last full time week with Blaster Bouncer. This was very bittersweet. I will miss working for them, but hope to Random Musings, Part 1keep in touch and maybe work a few events or fill in every once in awhile. They have three locations; Denver, CO, Chicago, IL, and Pittsburgh, PA. If any of you readers live in those areas and have kids, block parties coming up, after proms, other school events, etc., check them out.

Last Friday (not yesterday) I left work early to start setting up after prom at Dakota Ridge High School. I’ve been doing this a long time and still do it even though my kids aren’t in high school any more (Don’t ask, I’m crazy and that’s all I’ll say). This years theme was Mardi Gras mardi grasTrieze as it’s 2013 and the event was on the thirteenth. I have to admit, I had a lot of fun with this one and since my tastes run a little dark, I designed the cemetery, ’cause you’ve got to have one if you’re in New Orleans, right? This pretty much took up my whole weekend . . . Yeah, no, it DID take up my whole weekend.

145140

That brings me to last week. I started a new job; full time, year round, etc. As much as I would like to stay home and write, it doesn’t pay the bills (yet, I say quietly and to myself). So far, I like it and it’s close to home.

And, that, as they say, is that. My life has been feeling pretty full, but now that things have settled a bit, I can get back to concentrating on my book.

What makes your life full?

Seo ar an saol! ~ Here’s to life!full life

RG

Why Do I Put Myself Through This?

Last night, I took the rough draft of my novel synopsis to my critique group where it got thoroughly shredded. 021

I expected it.

As I write this post,  The Whites Stripes, Catch Hell Blues comes on my iTunes playlist. And, I quote: “If your lookin’ for hot water, don’t act shocked when you get burned a little bit. If you really want some hot water, I can help you find it.”

Yeah, at critique group, and definitely don’t go if you can’t take the hot water.

I laugh because it’s exactly what I was looking for, but I still question why I put myself through this. I can think of a few:

Because I enjoy having others scrutinize and disassemble my work (yeah, no, not really, well maybe, hmmm . . . )

Because conflict is my friend (and I like my friend).

Because “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” Friedrich Nietzsche -or, in this case, what doesn’t kill your story, makes it stronger.

Because, and this is in the case of my synopsis, I want to enter a contest and the stupid thing is required (at least they reduced it to 3-4 pages instead of 8).

And, most importantly,

Because I want my work to be as good as it can be for the reader.

599075_398594130238481_1470735836_nSo here’s my question. Do you put yourself through the ringer for certain things? What are they and how many hoops do you jump through?

See you next week, probably battered and bruised, but that synopsis is going to get written. ~ RG

Ireland’s Shore

Happy St. Patrick's Day!Before I ever visited Ireland, I wrote a poem about it. This was many years before I sat foot on Ireland’s Shore.  The irony of this poem is that it came to me in a dream, and the ending is very much how I felt when I left Ireland twenty years later. My children drew my back to America, but Ireland calls to me still.

 

Is féidir teacht ar do aisling fíor. – May your dreams come true. – RG

Ireland’s Shore

 

Warm fire upon the ocean

Cool stars up in the sky

Arms reach out to enfold her

Draw her near to Ireland’s shore.

 

Strong oak all but forgotten

Ghosts on the barren, rock strewn land

Call her name, but just a whisper

Draw her near to Ireland’s shore.

 

Soft mist entwines the cliffs

The harp sounds low and sweet

Whispers echoed by pipe and flute

Draw her near to Ireland’s shore.

 

Pulsing tempo of the music

Her heart quickens to the beat

Sings to her a song of yearning

Draw her near to Ireland’s shore.

Bards and poets call to her

Their voices plead incessantly

Stir the longings of her soul

Ever nearer to Ireland’s shore.

 

Firm earth beneath her feet

This moment long awaited

Standing on ancestral ground

Finally reaching Ireland’s shore.

 

She feels the ages light a flame

The passion flows, in her ancestral blood

Tales of ancient days

Hold her fast to Ireland’s shore.

 

Bright the dawn, sad the morn

Tears course and tear her soul

She bids farewell with one last glance

So disappears Ireland’s shore.

© Ireland’s Shore – copywrite – RG Calkins 1978

A Wee Bit of ‘Grave’ Irish Humor

skeleton St. Pat'sOkay. This is going to be a wee bit of shameless, self promotion. I’ve written several short stories and I would like to share one with you here.  It’s dark humor, which I hope you enjoy.

If you like dark, horror, paranormal, you can find this story, three more of mine, and many more author’s stories, in the Darker Times Anthology, Volumes One and Two. They’re available on Amazon.com US and UK (links will be provided below). The full poem, The Gravedigger’s Song, featured in this story, will be published in the Darker Times poetry and flash fiction anthology, which will be available later this year.

There, that’s it for the promotion bit. On with the story.

The Gravedigger ~ RG Calkins

Jack Sullivan strides across the cemetery lawn, shovel slung on his shoulder, a lantern swings from his hand. He sings a tune not known to most.

            When I was young my elders said,

            Don’t walk on graves, disturb the dead.

            This sounded strange, I questioned not

            Tiptoed ‘round each crypt and plot.

            The dead don’t mind if you dance on their bones

            They’re covered o’re with earth and stones

            None reside b’neath the ground

            Their souls are free, no longer bound.

     He reaches his destination and tips his cap. “Ah, now, Mr. Stewart. ‘Twas a nice service here today was it not?”

     “What was that bizarre lay you were bellowing?”

     Jack chuckles. “One passed from me grandda to me da to me.”

     Stewart huffs. “It’s irreverent and disrespectful.”

     Jack shoves his shovel into the pile of dirt at his feet. “Aye, to some ‘tis, but most folk laughs at it.”

     “That’s preposterous.”

     Jack continues to shovel steadily. “‘Tis the truth of it.”

     A woman approaches. Her pasty face sour and gait purposeful.

     Jack stops and tips his cap to her. “Evenin’ Mrs. O’Connor. Come to pay your respects have you?”

     “I’ve come to spit on t’ bastard’s remains, I have.” She comes closer and hawks a gob of spit toward the dirt.

     “Ah now, Missus is that any way to be?” Jack scoops more dirt in.

     “He was a thievin’ son of a whore.” She points a bony finger at him. “You know the truth of it Jack Sullivan.”

     “Aye, I know it well.” He says to the woman’s retreating back.

     “What a course and bitter woman.”

     Jack distributes more soil into the hole. “As you say, Mr. Stewart.” He pauses only to light his lantern.

Stewart squints into the dying light. “Sullivan, do you see that man striding toward us?”

“Aye, sir, I do.”

     “Is it All Hallows? He appears to have on a costume.”

     Jack peers at the young man. “Nay, ‘tisn’t Samhain and he’s not wearin’ a costume.”

     “By God, man,” Stewart exclaims, “then the boy’s been shot.”

     Jack, unconcerned, removes a flask from the back pocket of his pants. “Aye, I b’lieve he has.” He takes a pull from the pint size container.

     “Good evenin’ gents.” The lad says with a slight bow.

     Jack holds out the tin. “Nice to see you Finn, care for a drink?”

     “Ah, now, Mr. Sullivan, I can’t accept your hospitality, but I appreciate the thought.”

     Stewart looks appalled. “You, lad, go along to the hospital.”

     Finn’s pale face turns to Stewart. “There’s naught they can do for me, sir.” He peers at the now filled grave. “For him neither.” Finn throws his head back and howls with laughter as he takes his leave.

     “Mr. Sullivan, I think there is something amiss here.”

     Jack raises his eyebrows. “How do you mean, sir?”

     Stewart makes a grand gesture. “Why are all these people milling about a graveyard after dark?”

     Jack follows his gaze. “Because it’s their home.”

Stewart’s eyes are wide with fright. “Let us flee, man.” His voice quavers. “These apparitions may mean to do us harm.”

     Jack grins at Mr. Stewart. “I’ll be goin’ now, but as for you . . .” the sound of metal against stone draws Stewart’s attention.

     Stewart stares in disbelief at the newly chiseled headstone.

     “Good night, Mr. Stewart and welcome home.”

     Jack slings his shovel to its perch, picks up his lantern and crosses the turf.

            It occurred to me that ev’ry day.

            We walk the crust of death’s decay.

            It’s futile to pick up your feet,

Irish Graveyard

            When everywhere a corpse they meet.

           The dead don’t mind if you dance on their bones

            They’re covered o’re with earth and stones

            None reside b’neath the ground

            Their souls are free, no longer bound.

© Copywrite- The Gravedigger, RG Calkins, 2012

Is féidir leat rince! – May you dance! ~ RG

Now for those links (right click and select ‘go to address’ or copy and paste the link into the search bar):

US

Vol. 1 – http://www.amazon.com/Darker-Times-Anthology-Volume-One/dp/1481000985/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363042840&sr=8-1&keywords=jessica+grace+coleman+darker+times+anthology

Vol. 2 – http://www.amazon.com/Darker-Times-Anthology-Volume-Two/dp/1481971727/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1363042840&sr=8-2&keywords=jessica+grace+coleman+darker+times+anthology

UK

Vol. 1 – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Darker-Times-Anthology-Volume-One/dp/1481000985/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1363042718&sr=8-3

Vol. 2 – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Darker-Times-Anthology-Volume-Two/dp/1481971727/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1363042718&sr=8-1

W. B. Yeats

WB YeatsMore than a few years back, I visited Ireland. While there, we stumbled upon the churchyard where W. B. Yeats is buried. I love graveyards and this was one of the most unique I’ve ever explored. But, enough about that.

My post today is in celebration of one of my favorite poets–W. B. Yeats. And, in particular, a favorite poem of mine.

The Stolen Child

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that dropp their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he’s going,
The solemn-eyed:
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than he can understand.

William Butler Yeats
dancing fairies w.child

Besides the poem, I also wanted to provide a musical version of it. 12 The Stolen Child This is by The Waterboys, and has a place in my St. Patrick’s Day playlist.

Mise I dán agus ceol ~ Yours in poem and music ~ RG

Gettin’ My Irish On!

All this week I’ll be posting. Yes, you heard me–all week. I’m feelin’ my ancestry and I’m going to post something Irish everyday!

I’m starting the week with a repost of my St. Patrick’s Day playlist.

singing irish

Eireann           Afro Celt Sound System

Drunken Lullabies          Flogging Molly

The Broad Majestic Shannon          The Pogues

I’ll Tell Me Ma          The Young Dubliners

What’s Left of the Flag          Flogging  Molly

Dunford’s Fancy          The Waterboys

The Kilburn High Road          Flogging Molly

The Foggy Dew          The Young Dubliners

Shanne Bradley          The Pogues

The Paddy Set          Seven Nations

(No More) Paddy’s Lament          Flogging Molly

I’m Shipping of to Boston          Dropkick Murphys

The Irish Rover          The Pogues

Black Friday Rule          Flogging Molly

The Battle March (Medley)          The Pogues

Soft Gator Girl          Seven Nations

Stolen Child          The Waterboys

The Seven Deadly Sins          Flogging Molly

The Rocky Road to Dublin      The Young Dubliners

Grace O’Malley     The Dreadnoughts

She Moved Through the Fair          The Chieftains w/Sinead  O’Connor

I hope you will check out some or all of the above songs and artists. Here are a couple for your listening pleasure. One of them makes an appearance in my novel. 🙂

03 I’ll Tell Me Ma            10 Soft Gator Girl

Taitneamh a bhaint as ~ Enjoy!

The Dreaded Synopsis . . . HELP!!!

WBI really want to enter a certain writing contest this year. It requires an eight page SYNOPSIS, and the first twenty pages of my manuscript. The manuscript is easy. Not so much that other thing.

I know my story. It’s not like I don’t know what to put down. But, how to do it? I haven’t written a synopsis since school. I’m not sure they’re even the same, or if I remember what’s to be done.

Help me get rid of this synopsis block. It’s that word . . . synopsis . . . intimidating me. Silly, technical sounding label.

I know there are resources to help me with this, but I’d like to hear some feedback from other writers. What’s your approach to writing a synopsis? Do you have any rules of thumb? Any tried and true tips? What not to do?

(Slaps hand to forehead) It can’t be this hard! Sheesh!

~RG

 

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