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

Artistry and Ego

In my opinion, artists (this encompasses all the arts), walk hand-in-hand with Self-doubt, Self-critic and Ego. They’re numbers one, two, and three on your friends list and they NEVER go away.

Artists, in truth, are solitary creatures. The writer/poet who spends much of their time with a computer or notebook. The artist that works hours Writing_girlon end with brush, hands, camera, etc. The dancer who works alone incessantly in the studio. The actor who studies and memorizes their lines behind closed doors.  The composer/musician with just an instrument and paper. The designer that works solo at drafting table, cutting table, the darkened theatre, a computer. Some may have a team, or troupe, or ensemble, or critique group, but the bottom line is, those of us who strive to express ourselves through artistry, are ultimately alone with our craft.

With the exception of our three friends.

actorThere is always that niggling Self-doubt. What if I’m not good enough? What if they don’t like my story/poem, song, painting, design, performance, etc? What if I never realize my dream?

Or, the nasty Self-critic. It tells  you you’re not good enough. It tells you your story/poem, song painting, design, performance, etc. sucks! It tells you you’ll never realize your dream.

Then there’s Ego, and it can go many ways. Ego can be your detriment:dancer

I’m good enough, there’s no way they won’t like my (fill in the blank). This (fill in the blank) is awesome! It’ll become the next greatest (fill in the blank).

Pride goeth before the fall. You get bad reviews, or your work doesn’t sell, your performance was flat, or others in your craft are disparaging and you get sucked down into a black pit of despair at which time Self-doubt and Self-critic become your BFFs.

Or, Ego can be your savior:

designSomeone liked my (fill in the blank)! If I reach, touch, inspire, entertain someone, even one person with my (fill in the blank), it’s all worth it. I think this (fill in the blank) is awesome, I hope others will too.

Not setting yourself up for the fall, you get mixed reviews, or your work doesn’t sell as well as expected, but does sell, your performance mediocre, but acceptable, or others in your craft are disparaging, but not harsh, and you don’t let it get you down even though Self-doubt and Self-critic are still on your friends list.

Or, Ego let’s you get silly or obnoxious:composer

I’m on top of the world! Take that nay sayers, I did it! Yippee!! My (fill in the blank) is awesome! My (fill in the blank) rocked! OMG, I hope this lasts. What (fill in the blank) do I do next? Can I top that? Can I at least maintain my artistry?

Feeling good and still on your feet. You get rave reviews, your work sells, you get standing ovations, you’re written up in articles, etc., others in your craft are encouraging/supportive/disparaging depending on their own egos, and YES, Self-doubt and Self-critic are still your friends.

artBecause, they are ALWAYS there for the artist.

For me, I’ve gone through all of it. Most of the time privately, because that’s the way I am. However, I can only go so long before it boils over or oozes out. I have a voice that smacks my friend Ego every time it gets out of hand, but that’s another topic. I’m not sure it’s a good or bad thing, because that same voice doesn’t throw down with Self-doubt and Self-critic and maybe it should. I’ve been sharing company with the two of them a little too much lately.

How about you? Do you have ways of reigning in these things or do you let them run rampant? Are these miscreants on your friends list?

Spring Has Sprung

I know this because my allergies have been acting up. And, although I love the season, the dull, nagging, sinus headache that’s  been courting all day is thinking of victory.

“New flash, you insistent bore, I’m going to crush you.” I revel in Headache’s cowering. ” I think a drive to the health food store to get my favorite allergy/sinus herb is in order.

Headache quakes in fear.

“That’s right you little sneeze, crawl back to where you came from.”

Whimpering ensues.

I grab my keys, slide my flip flops on, and sneer. “Ha! You can’t stop me now.”

Headache intensifies thinking to bring me to my knees.

My resolve is strong, I will make it five minutes (well, maybe ten) and drive to said store.

Headache pounds on the front of my skull.

“That won’t do you any good. You’re just a measly sinus headache. Toast! That’s what you’ll be.”

Eyes water, nose runs, Headache is joyful. It’s as if it says ‘See, I can affect all your senses.”

“Ah, no you don’t. You can’t effect my sense of self preservation.”

I screech to a halt, fling myself out the car door, and run into the store ignoring the stares from patrons and clerks. I reach for my precious Springtime remedy. “Curses! They’re out. The suffering populace has beaten me to it.”

Headache rolls around my noggin, laughing.

I hang my head, supporting the pathetic thing in my hands.

“Never fear, dear lady.” A kind, young clerk says. “I’ve yet to restock the shelf. Here is the first bottle of the new shipment.”

“Huzzah! My hero.” I cry out.

Headache sinks it’s nasty little, slimy claws into the sinus cavity above my nose. ‘Noooooo, I’ll drive you to bed, yet.”

I open the refrigerated unit and select a bottle of water, strip off the safety seal and rip off the cap. “Take this you insipid cur.” A couple of capsules, a swig of liquid. “Just wait, you primaveral fiend, twenty minutes and you’re gone.”

Headache responds with more pressure.spring flowers

I laugh and hand the clerk my trash and opened treasures.

“Don’t you just love Spring?” She asks.

“Actually, I do.”

Happy First Day of Spring, Everyone! ~ RG

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

 

To Rhyme, or not to Rhyme-Do you have poetic tendencies?

I’ve been having a bout of poetry lately. It may not be a real illness, but my brain wants to rhyme, or not, and it happens at odd times. I’ve taken to carrying a notebook around in case something pops in my head while I’m doing laundry.

I’m not prepared to share any of my latest regurgitations at this time. However, I will–in the future. I like to let my poetry stew a little, then I go back and look at it again. I’ll take it to one of my critique groups. When I feel it’s ready to be viewed by the public, you’ll see it.

poe

Poe is one of my favorite poets. I like his stories too. Yes, creepy. Yes, weird. Yes, I’m demented. Maybe that’s why my latest issue has been on the dark side. Get ready-bwahahahaha.

What I’d really like to know is if any of you have poetic tendencies?

I would love to see a haiku or a few rhyming couplets or free verse posted in comments.

Come on. You can do it.

Serious or silly.

If you do, I will too ~ RG

Enter the World of the Djen – Author/Character Interview

I am so excited!

This is my very first guest post and I’m so happy my first blog guest is my critique partner and friend, Lisa Fender. Her debut novel, Fable – Book I of the Lorn Prophecies is slated to launch April/May of this year. I’m ecstatic for her! I’ve been critiquing her work for the past two years and know exactly how much this means to her.

Not only did Lisa answer my questions about her book and writing, she brought Jack Snow, one of her characters with her. Jack is the long-time friend of her protagonist Stevie Barrett, and one of my personal favorites.

So, let’s jump into the world of the Djen, the inhabitants of Djenrye, a parallel dimension to our own.

I’ll start with some questions for you, Lisa.

RG – Lisa, I know you’ve been working on this book for four years and you’re looking forward to seeing it in print.  What has been the most rewarding thing for you as you’ve gone through the process of writing and revising?

Lisa – Seeing the book actually become a wonderfully written novel! When I first wrote the rough-draft I knew there was something wrong, but I couldn’t fix it. I had to take classes, hire a writing coach, and once I realized what was missing, (creative writing skills) the book became something I wanted to read!

Lisa and Tanya

Lisa & Toni

RG – You’ve been working with a co-author, who is also your sister, Toni Burns. How has that been and do you feel the two of you are closer for working together?

Lisa – It has been a great experience! We are now closer than ever. For some reason we are in sync with each other. We are always in each other’s head. But, to try and do it alone, well I am at a blank. I’m so glad she loves the story as much as I!

RG – Fable – Book I of the Lorn Prophecies, is the first in the series. How many books are planned?

Lisa – That is a question I don’t know if I can answer. Originally there was going to be 3, a trilogy. But, we decided to add short stories about Djenrye in between releases of the novels. And, we have discussed there being 5 novels, so that’s a lot of books…we’ll see.

RG – Okay, Lisa, give us a blurb about Fable . . . Jack, put your hand down, it’s still Lisa’s turn.  Where was I–oh, I think the readers will be fascinated by the world you’ve created.

Lisa – At eighteen, Stevie Barrett, discovers that she has powers, visions, and is from another dimension parallel to this world. Most startling yet, she is destined to save both worlds from total destruction. Her nemesis seeks to control the five ancient Orbs (Orteh, in the Djen tongue) that maintain the Earth’s balance—the spheres she is meant to protect—but to do so, he must drain her blood and powers. Stevie’s challenge is to embrace her birthright as the last surviving Guardian of the Orbs, learn to use her abilities, and accept exile from the only home she has ever known, if she is to save herself and everyone she loves.

Okay, Jack. Now it’s your turn.

RG – How old are you, Jack, and how long have you known Stevie Barrett?

Jack – Old enough to know better and young enough not to care. (Glare from Lisa) Okay, okay, eighteen. I’ve known Stevie since we were kids. Maybe, twelve or thirteen years? But, she didn’t succumb to my manly charms until about eight years ago. (Lisa shakes her head)

RG – I know you were pretty put out about the appearance of Colton in Stevie’s life. How’s that working for you?

Jack – Seriously? Like I have anything to worry about from a warrior god from another dimension who is my best friend’s soul mate…okay, never mind. We’ll always have Golden.

RG – Are you ever serious?

Jack – Like a heart attack. Hey Stevie’s still my bud, and Alyssa’s still my…well, that’s turning out to be another story all together.

RG – What’s the first thing you thought when you found out your friend isn’t human? That’s got to be a mind blower.

Jack – You aren’t kiddin! But hey, having a superhero friend is pretty intense. A cool kinda intense.

RG – These Djen guys are pretty serious and dangerous. Are you afraid for your life?

Jack – Nah. I’m mean, look at me…

(Jack winks at RG)

RG –  (rolls eyes) You and Detective Wood play a big part in Stevie and Colton’s quest to find the missing Orteh (orb). How does is make you feel to be included in the search?

Jack – Included? Why wouldn’t they include me? I’m Colton’s co-warrior and Wood’s IT guy.

RG – Okay, final question. Now that you know Stevie is spoken for, is there a new love in your life?

Jack – I don’t know if I’d say L…O…V…E. But, well, have you met that cute nimble little gymnast Stevie and I hang out with? Anyone who can do a back bend like Alyssa…I’m just sayin.

(Lisa sighs, RG raises eyebrows)

Jack – What?

RG – Thank you Lisa and Jack for visiting with me today.

Lisa – Thanks for having us, Robin! Wouldn’t miss it!

Jack – Anytime doll-face. And if you need any help fighting off warriors from another dimension, give me a call (Lisa punches Jack in the arm). Hey! I’m just sayin…

Fable – Book I of the Lorn Prophecies by Lisa Fender, with Toni Burns will be available soon. I will post the launch date as soon as that’s decided. You can follow Lisa and Toni at the links listed below.

http://www.facebook.com/FableBookI

http://www.lisafender.com/

https://twitter.com/LisaFender1

https://twitter.com/ToniBurnsMe

RG Calkins

http://rgcalkins-author.com

https://www.facebook.com/RGCalkins.Author

https://twitter.com/RGCalkinswrites

Welcome to 2013

I started 2013 with the beginnings of a cold (heavy sigh). You would say that isn’t a good thing, but it’s just a cold. Overall, I have good vibes about the new year. I usually don’t feel one way or the other about it, but sometimes I get–I don’t know–an intuitive sense about things. So, even though I had a cold (had, you hear me), there have been a couple of things that I’m putting in the good column.

January 2nd – I was notified that I won the December, Darker Times short story contest. This is my second win. I sent in 2 stories for December and the other one received an honorable mention. Both will be published in the Darker Times Anthology Volume Two.

January 3rd – I had a job interview. More on this later.smiley-teeth

Hey, it’s a start.

I don’t make resolutions and sometimes I wonder who’s idea they were. I secretly think that some really drunk guy did. He woke up on January 1st with a massive hangover and said, “I resolve never to touch another drop of alcohol.” He repeated it to a friend and they told another friend and so on. Next New Year’s Eve he’d forgotten all about that resolution, as did his buddies, and several pints into the new year they were making the same determination again. Tradition started.

I am going to set at least one goal. That is to finish the revisions on my first novel and start the process of getting it published. I have some other goals  pending, but I need to flesh them out and prioritize before I state them.

Have you had any good things happen so far? Do you make resolutions or goals? Is 2013 going to be the year of the Happy Dance for you?

snoopy.happy dance

RG

As 2012 Winds Down

Thank you

It’s almost the end of 2012. At twelve a.m. Tuesday morning, in your particular time zone, people all over your country and all over the world will yell, scream, whisper, murmur and even silently welcome in 2013, the New Year. There will be fireworks, champagne, handshakes, hugs, and kisses.

Before all that happens, I want to be thankful for a few things.

First–my family. Thankful for all of them and their love and support. Thankful that my son has taken a leap of faith to start a new job that will allow him to explore his creativity and allow for friends and family. Thankful that my daughter has decided to give her school experience another chance and that she’s made good friends that will help her endure. I feel that the new year will be really good for both of them and I hope they go into it with positive determination and attitudes.

Second–my friends. Old and new. Those close and far away. The ones I know face-to-face and those I only know virtually. You all rock! Thank ty friendsyou for your support, your friendship, for holding me in your thoughts and prayers. Blessings to all of you in the new year. May it bring health, happiness, love, and prosperity to each and everyone of you.

Third–the random things.

Thank you to the postal clerk who helped me on Christmas Eve. I don’t know your name, but thank you from the bottom of my heart. When I discovered my daughter’s Christmas package was returned because the customs slip came off, this man made sure that it got back into the system that night. I hope his Christmas was great and that his new year is better.

To all those people in the drive through at Starbuck’s–you know who you are–the ones that buy coffee and sometimes more for the person behind you. Not just you, but all the people who practice random acts of kindness every day, those of you who make someone else smile and feel happy, even if it’s for a moment. That moment, or day, or week, or however long it lasts, is so beneficial. I hope in the new year that you see that paid forward, or continue the practice, or  that it is reciprocated on you.

Thank you to my critique partners (Lisa, Janet), critique group (RMFW-Tues/Thurs), and writing group (GWWG). You are the reason I get better, gratitudethe reason I’m published, and one of  the reasons I keep writing. Also, all of the writing friends (too many to name) I’ve met through contacts and various social media. I hope the new year sees you finish a manuscript, getting published, and having success. And, to Jessica Coleman of Darker Times Fiction for publishing my short stories. Best wishes to all of you.

Thank you to the many (again, too many to name) who are keeping me in mind every time you hear of a job I might be qualified for, and those (Jeremy, Mindy, Bill) who hold a position for me in your busy season should I not find that permanent position.

I’m sure there are other people that I need to thank. My daughter’s flat mates, my son’s friends, and the fact there is now enough snow for my husband to enjoy his skiing. And I thank God for seeing me through this far.

For all of you, everyone who reads this, I wish you a healthy, happy, loving, prosperous, and outstanding New Year! Blessings to each and everyone of you in 2013!

RGTY


Two Cups of Coffee with No Food

I’ve done this a few times in the last week.

Wondered why my body felt as if it was fuzzy or teeming with electricity.

Then that heel of the hand to the head duh moment occurs.

I had two cups of strong coffee and didn’t eat a thing.

So, when I look up from my laptop and the job applications that I’ve been sending out and see that it’s two in the afternoon, I’ve looked at all the job boards have offered for the day, and I’m shaking from malnourished brain cells, running on caffeine fumes, I shouldn’t be surprised.

It’s also December. Not really my favorite month, but I do like the holiday that it was bequeathed with. What I don’t like about it is the commercial, coma inducing, frenzied shopping that goes on. I avoid malls and other retail establishments, if I can, in normal months and on normal days. Even going to Panera Bread, at SW Plaza Mall, for my critique group borders on insanity to me. Just goes to show how masochistic I’ve become in my pursuit of writing.

This year, I’m not yet in the spirit of things. For one, we haven’t had that much snow. Even in the mountains. That is not a good thing in Colorado. A few days ago, it was like September in the weather department. What’s with that?

snowmen2

Seeing lights go up on the houses has helped a bit, ours are up too. Maybe if I decorate inside, it’ll be more festive. However, I like seeing a bit of snow around this time of year. I feel a little bit like Bing Crosby and entourage in White Christmas, when they get to Vermont and there’s no snow on the ground.

Anyway, I’m going to make the best of things, avoid people crushing mall crowds, ignore all the ads TV and internet, and concentrate on what the season is supposed to be about. Love.
Love your families, even if they try your patience sometimes. Life is too short not to. Love your fellow man/woman/child. I know this is a hard thing to do, but believe me, a little act of random kindness goes a long way.
Okay, that’s my caffeine induced, ramble.
If I want to drink coffee and not eat anything until after two in the afternoon, that’s my issue, right? (Just don’t tell my daughter. I just lectured her on how she needs to eat and not skip meals).Love and peace to you this Christmas season.RG

Farewell, but not Goodbye

Recently I bid a fond farewell to my friend and writer’s coach, Janet Roots. She is returning to the land of her birth, England and will be near my daughter, who is in Wales. This is not goodbye as we plan to keep in touch through the ether.

I met Janet when I attended a MeetUp.com group she started called the Golden Wannabe Writer’s Group in Golden, Colorado. I had just started jotting down ideas for a book when the invite popped up in my e-mail. I had other such invites, but none had felt as right as this one, so I attended the first meeting. That was in June of 2010 and I stuck with this group right up to our last meeting with Janet.

Over the almost two and a half years I’ve known her she has encouraged me, mentored me, taught me the writing craft (still learning), introduced me to my first critique partner, and became my friend. I’ve met some wonderful people through the group, some of which have become good friends and all of whom make me a better writer.

As I said before, this is not goodbye. Our little group wants to stay in touch. To do so, we created a Facebook group and we’ll meet once a month at our regular haunt, Bean Fosters. When Janet is settled in England, we will Skype her into our meetings. We hope to still offer the support each of us needs to reach our goals, whether they be to write and get published, to write for ourselves, or to find out if writing is our thing.

I’ve made other acquaintances in the UK. Some are my daughter’s new friends and others are fellow writers whom I’ve met through blogging, Twitter, and Facebook. I hope to be able to visit in the near future and meet them face-to-face.

Until then,
I wish Janet all the best and I’ll be in touch!

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