Tag Archives: Kids

Pantsing – the journey continues

I’m writing my first 100% pantser novel. I never realised how much planning I did for a novel until I tried to write one with no plan at all. None. I started with an idea and a vague thought about where it was going. I was wrong, of course, it stopped going in the direction I was expecting at chapter 3.

Never one for writing character back-story or studies, or even plotting out chapters, I thought my approach to novel writing was pretty fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, but I always had a strong idea about where the characters would end up. So far, for the novels I’ve finished and nearly finished, they have ended approximately where I expected. It was the character journey to get there that was a mystery.

This current novel is only revealing itself to me about two chapters before it happens. I can’t help but worry that I’m writing myself into a black hole which has no end and no point. I won’t know though, until I get to the end, assuming there is an end. Apparently that’s how these things work.

Talking to other pantsers this is what happens; you give your characters life and you just document where they go. Sure they might take a few wrong turns along the way and you have to backtrack, but supposedly that’s the fun. Fun? Pantsers clearly have a different idea of what constitutes fun. I feel like I’m on an out-of-control train and I’m a little bit scared.

But the thing is, I am on a train, this novel is powering ahead so much faster than most of my planned novels. My weekly word count is currently higher than it has been for years. That feels good.

There is a little bit of me that really hopes my novel gets a good end, not because I want it to end well (that goes without saying), but because I want to know that this pantser thing works. It is more than a little bit addictive and I’d like to try it again.

Reading age

My project this week has been to read a range of kid’s book where the protagonists are all approximately the same age. I got all the books from recommendations from ‘kids’ of all ages. As a result some books were written in the 50’s, some in the 80’s, some in the 90’s and some hot off the press.

Wow, what a spectrum. All my pre-conceived ideas about language, complexity and length were completely destroyed. There was no formula that you could apply to all of the books, despite the supposed common target audience. I found some terribly boring due to their simplicity, while others were totally captivating thanks to the depth of character and story.

But all these books have been loved, that’s why I only read recommended books. The fondness for the book was remembered (sometimes) decades after the storyline had been lost to memory. Many of these older books have never been out of print, such is their popularity.

I know that publishers have ‘rules’ which mean they will probably reject most non-conforming manuscripts before they even open them, but Harry Potter got picked up eventually. That story broke loads of rules not least of which was story length and complexity given Harry was only 10 when the novel opened. Thank goodness J.K. didn’t listen to all the advice out there that would tell her to cut, cut, cut!

This brings me back to the same conclusion I keep butting up against; just write the book you want to read. Each book will find its audience, it might be an audience of two, or two million, but the most important audience is that of the writer. If publication is not your driving force, then be true to your story, you may just be onto something.