Starting Your Query before Your Novel is Completed?

I’m a Panster, (or is it Pantster?) which means that my characters tell me their story, not the other way around. It’s unconventional, from what I’ve been told, but it works for me. Outlines are painful, arduous, and too confining for me.

My first novel, I had no idea what I was doing. I just wrote it: no outline. I was naïve, and just had a bunch of notes for a story that I’d been sitting on for 20 years (no kidding…20 years), and finally had the time and determination to write it down. It felt great to complete it! Even if nobody else read it, at least I finished it.

While writing my second novel, I happened across an article in a writer’s magazine that showed step-by-step how to outline a novel. So, I followed their example, and I plotted, and outlined, and then tried to write according to that outline.

I hated it! It felt as if I was writing in a foreign language and trying to force feed the words to fit the outline. I scrapped the outline and wrote the book my own naïve way. And, again, I finished it.

Several novels later, and I’m in the midst of querying. While I sift through rejection letters and wait for the golden ticket, I’ve started another novel.

I struggled to get this one going on the right track, until I realized I was over-thinking. So I tried something different, but not on purpose.

One night, as I was trying to fall asleep, I was writing the query in my head. But that’s crazy! I was only 4,000 words into the story. I shouldn’t even be thinking about a query, right?

But I couldn’t get it out of my head. Maybe it was because I had been querying for that other novel that my brain kept thinking in that direction. So instead, I wrote what would be on the back of the book jacket, or part of the query. It worked! It helped me focus where the story was going, but without the constraints of an outline. It brought my novel to back to life for me, and made it more compelling.

Since then, I’ve updated it several times and keep adding to it. I guess you could call it an outline, but it’s more entertaining than that. I see an outline as a dry, step-by-step summary of what’s coming. #panstertroubles The back of the book jacket is the ad that causes the reader to buy the book. And isn’t that what we, as writers, are trying to do? Get people to buy our books?

Writing the book jacket keeps me focused on the goal of what I want my story to tell, and who I want my story to reach.

I don’t know if it will work, but it’s kind of fun. The way I look at it is whatever gets you focused and writing is best for you: whether it be an outline, scribble in a notebook, or a query. That’s just my two cents. Happy writing!

Writing Like a Panster

I finished my latest Manuscript and am seeking representation, which can be a long process. So, until then, I’ve started a new project.

But it’s been slow going so far, and I think I know why.

I’m OVER-THINKING.

I’m not an outliner, I’m a “Panster.” Which is weird, because being a “Panster” goes against every other part of my life. With the rest of my life, my family, my finances, etc. I am a planner. Type-A all the way.

But not when it comes to writing. Writing is the one place that I give myself permission to fly free.

I usually start with a character and go from there. The story reveals itself to me along the way. Of course, that means there is going to be a lot of tweaking and rearranging, but that’s the price I pay for being a “Panster.”

If you’re an Outliner, you plan your novel way ahead of time, from what I understand. Some people have story arcs and everything before they even start writing.

This time, I started my story with a few characters and how they interact and I immediately jumped to plotting. And I’ve been trying to make my story “fit.” But doing that for a #Panster is like putting a size 10 foot into a size 8 shoe. There’s a lot of forcing, and whining and pain involved. And it isn’t fun, and it isn’t productive. Trust me, I worked in a shoe store when I was young and watched hundreds of women insist they were a size 6 when they were clearly a size 7, and then proceed to blame it on the shoe.

I’m blaming the shoe right now instead of just finding the right fit and giving myself lots and lots of room.

So, I’m starting over…in my own Panster way. I’m going to let my characters tell me their stories. I’m merely the recorder. I need to let them tell me their hopes and dreams and fears and conflicts. If I set them free on the keyboard, they will show up. But I need to stop shoving my large characters into the small shoe.

How do you start a new story? Are you a Panster or an Outliner?

Writing Without Fear

 

My latest WIP has been a bit of a challenge. I’m a panster, not an outliner which can be both freeing and completely stifling.

I usually start with an idea for a character, or characters, and then build a story and plot around them. I know, it’s backwards, but it’s the way my brain works.

I’ve started my current WIP three different times.

First, the plot wasn’t strong enough, so I set it aside. But the characters kept talking to me, and telling me they had a story to tell.

So I picked it up again. I tried changing the plot and making it more appealing, and it seemed to be working for a while. But it was still missing something and I couldn’t put my finger on it, so I set it down again.

The third time I picked it up I realized that the story was focused around the wrong character. I was trying to make a supporting character the protagonist. One of the side characters had a much better story to tell and made a much better protagonist: the kind you want to root for even when you know they’re going to fail miserably.

So I started over…again.

I also decided to write with a different approach. No editing. No rereading. Just keep writing. I know that means there will be a LOT more editing at the end, but it’s been kind of fun writing without fear.

I’m also writing completely prepared to cut out scenes, even chapters if necessary. Many times, as writers (or at least it’s this way with me), we’re reluctant to take out scenes, especially the ones that we really love. We don’t want to let go of them. But this time I KNOW there is going to be changes, and I’m good with that. Sometimes as I’m writing a particular scene, I may have an idea that it may not make it to the final cut. I’ve even found myself thinking “that doesn’t fit there” or “that chapter really sucked.” But I just keep writing.

This WIP has turned into a sort of writing exercise in free writing. Who knows if it will work? I’m not sure what I’m going to gain from it, but I’m not afraid even if the whole thing needs to be scrapped. As long as I finish it, then I will have reached my first goal.

Writing without fear may turn into editing without fear.

What do you do when a WIP isn’t working? Do you scrap it or do you try to re-work it? Are you a panster or an outliner?