I read an article today by Katie Rose Guest Pryal titled Writing Isn’t Sexy: Book Affairs and Why We Need Them. Have you ever read an article and at the end said to yourself, “O.M.G., that’s me!” Yeah, well, that happened to me today.
As a writer, I’m a definite pantser – meaning I don’t outline or plan before I sit down to write. I start with an empty page and go from there. Often when I’m writing my characters will lead me astray, sending me down dead ends so I have to backtrack and spend time figuring out what went wrong. It’s not entirely a waste of time because I learn a lot about my characters by doing that – what makes them tick, what they like, dislike, what makes them happy and what makes them angry. Usually when I go down these dead ends, I find out very quickly what makes them angry.
Take for example one of my current WiPs (work in progress). I wrote 60,000 words in one direction (after at least three restarts) when after a brainstorming session I realized I was 20,000 words in the wrong direction. Taking away those 20,000 words really angered my characters and they stormed out, slamming the door behind them, and have been silent ever since. They’re certainly making sure I’m aware of their displeasure, considering it’s been almost a year since they’ve spoken to me.
It’s okay, though, because like Katie said in her article, I have plenty of other characters clamoring for my attention. I don’t like to brag, but I’m kind of famous for the overabundance of book ideas I have. I’m pretty sure my editor cringes every time I text her a new idea. I can hear her saying, “that’s great, but how about you finish one first?”
I don’t know about all writers, but I know some of them suffer from this affliction. I get my ideas for books from everywhere. And when an idea strikes, I have to get it down fast – otherwise it disappears as quickly as it appeared. I’ve been in the middle of writing a scene and had an idea come to me. Instead of writing it down right away, I told myself I’d take care of it later. In one case, I forgot the idea entirely. In another case, the idea wouldn’t leave me alone and impeded my ability to write until I’d written the basic idea and notes down. What’s funny about that instance is that I still haven’t written that story yet.
Until I read Katie’s article, I had no idea there was an actual term for how I operated as a writer. I sent the article to my friend and she wholeheartedly agreed it described me to a tee. One thing I’ll never take for granted is the fact that I have so many ideas swirling around in my head all the time. I need to remember to always write them down when they come to me since I never know when I’ll need one of those book affairs to save me!