Saturday, October 9, 2010

Plotting along

If I were writing my autobiography I suppose I would have to have some clear sense of who I am.  As much as we believe that we shouldn't be tied down by labels and stereotypes, some of those classifications are helpful.  One thing I am learning is that I have to live in a world of oxymorons and contradictions (wait...aren't those the same thing?  Oxymoron is just such a great word.). Anyway. 

So I label myself, it helps me remember what I am doing.  I am a mother, a wife, a scientist, an artist.   Depending on the circumstances, some of these labels are more important than others. 

There are other words I want to use to describe myself and others that I don't.  I guess those words fall into the values category.  I want to be kind, and I like to be funny; but my sense of humor is tinged with a strong vein of sarcasm and judgement; so I spend alot of time regretting things I've said and trying to make amends for things I have said.  I want to be generous and honest, but am selfish and self-centered, so I mess that up a lot, too. 

I want to be a writer.  I am not sure why I think I want to write, because it seems that the process is more painful in reality than when the idea was just lolling around in the back of my head, at the bottom of my bucket list (I am also competing for the title of Supreme Goddess of the Run-on Sentence).  I have taken a few on-line workshops and read alot of stuff by great writers, trying to figure out the best way to do this writing thingy. 

I met Suzanne Brockmann, my hero, at a conference last week.  She shared alot of great stuff, including How To Keep Your Ass in the Chair (actually, she called it "Anchoring") and how to write a great hero. She makes it sound so straightforward!  She is definitely a plotter, and has her stories all worked out way ahead of time.  Otherwise there is no way the Troubleshooters series would be as amazing as it is.  I want to be her when I grow up.  Actually, I don't.  I want to be me.  But I want to write compelling characters that make a reader's heart lurch when they connect.   Which leads me to my current roadblock.  I don't seem to be able to put together a complete outline for my novel, including character sketches and backstory.  I don't know who my characters are without writing about them first. 

I seem to be a pantser with the guilty conscience of a plotter.  When I think about working on my stuff, I get all twisted around by worrying that I don't have a perfect outline to follow.  How can I torture my hero and heroine if I don't know their weaknesses and biggest fears?  All of this makes me think of my distaste for GPS navigation.  I go to mapquest, I find my destination, I might even print the map and the turn-by-turn directions, but I need to see where I am going before I get in the car.  I can't stand to wait for the Bitch on the Dashboard to tell me when to turn left.  And that's why the idea of writing by the seat of my pants terrifies me.  On the other hand, one of my favorite things to do is to go to my sewing room, pull a handfull of scraps out of a basket, find a few that look nice together and start sewing.  I have made some really beautiful quilts that way.  No pre-planning, just alot of messing around.  Not every bit makes it into the quilt, but wow, the ones that do look great (and I am strangely comfortable being confident about this).

So which way do I write?  Do I look at the map and memorize it and follow the outline, or do I just go along and wait for a voice in the air to tell me which way to turn? 

I got disgusted with myself yesterday for my procrastination and just started writing, and amazingly, things are getting a bit clearer.  I have a feeling that I'll be making my outline AFTER I've written most of the story.  And maybe that's okay.  I guess we'll see.  After all, life is a journey, not a destination, right?

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