On Being a Pantser

Last night I printed out the Work In Progress (WIP) so I could take it to the gym with me this morning to keep working on it. Since the MS is in a binder, I tucked my trusty notebook in the inside pocket of the binder, along with two red pens (in case one runs out). Good thing I stuck in the notebook. While I like the general direction the WIP is going, I’ve had some gut-level concerns that weren’t getting addressed by looking at it on the computer and/or continuing to write and/or expand scenes. Now, none of what I’m about to say are rules. OK? Keep that in mind. I’m an anal-retentive pantser. You’re warned. Proceed at your own risk.

For example, Chapter 1 is 14 pages. My gut knows that this is too long. And that dang chapter just keeps getting longer. But what to do about it? I haven’t been sure. I do know that with rare exceptions in the interior of a book, my chapters are 8-11 manuscript pages. That lengthens during the polishing phase. But any chapter that’s 14 pages this early in the writing typically means there’s too much going on. It means I don’t have the opening 3rd of the book right.

Another example: My gut keeps telling me Chapter 7 or 8, I forget which right now, is really an event that should happen MUCH later in the book. But I don’t have anything written or plotted that would make this say, Chapter 15 or something. Or maybe even Chapter 20.

Example 3: One of the editors who passed on the proposal said she felt the heroine (Carson) trusted my hero too soon. Now, obviously, this wasn’t a concern for the editors who didn’t pass, but all this time my gut has been saying, ya know, that seems like a really valid criticism. I have attempted to address that without, for me, any feeling of success. I’ve been piling up words to fix it and for me, that is a classic sign that the scene is somehow inherently flawed.

Example 4: There’s this scene I’ve been wanting to write but I can’t find the right place to make it happen. Very frustrating. I was wrestling with everything back and forth on the rickety old bridge, saying, here, I’ll put it here. No, here. Not there, here. Sheesh! The poor scene has been homeless a really long time.

Soooooo, last night as I was falling asleep, not very happy with Chapters 1 and 2, this little voice says, Carson should run away from the hero. And then I woke up just enough to say, yeah, that’s right, Carolyn. Don’t forget that in the morning. And then I fell asleep.

So, this morning as I’m reading Chapters 3 and 4 at the gym and not feeling very happy about those chapters either, I remembered the voice from last night and I thought, hey! That works!

If I were Archimedes, I’d have been in the bath shouting Eureka!

Yes. My heroine runs away from my hero at the end of chapter 2. She meets another character whose very nature exactly lends itself to the placement of my formerly homeless scene. This will put my heroine in contact with the story’s antagonists, and make her think differently of the hero. Sections of chapter 3 will move to chapter 2 (which is too short) and parts of chapter 1 will move, too. It’s a good thing I had my notebook with me because 1) there was no point in reading further and 2) I needed to brainstorm the idea so I’d know what to move here. Which I did. Then I was able to wield the red pen through the pages, marking what moved where. Pretty good for 45 minutes work.

Anyhow, off to work and all that. Then I had to go grocery shopping after I dropped my son off at Aikido because there wasn’t anything for dinner or lunches tomorrow, then drop of said groceries, then pick up son, then make sure said son was, in fact, caught up with the homework he missed after being home ill for a week. Then dinner, etc.

Now I have to go make that happen…


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