Pantsers write by the seat of their pants. Well, not literally. Most use pens, pencils or sometimes a keyboard, but you get my meaning - they start a story with a general idea of where it's going and then just make it up as they go along.
I am not a pantser. I am a planner. Before I start a story I can be found brainstorming and note-taking and mind mapping and all other kinds of plannery things. Next, I sit down and write a complete outline, chronicling the story from beginning to end.
Then, and only then, when the outline is done, I make myself a cup of tea, break out the biscuits and start to write.
The idea of making it up as I go along brings me out in a rash. No, don't ask where. You don't want to know.
Seriously, even the very thought of it is giving me the heebie-jeebies right now. It's probably due to the fact that I come from background of writing licensed fiction. Whether I'm writing Doctor Who, Skylanders, Angry Birds or whatever I need extensive outlines to get stories approved before I can start work. I've just got into a habit, which I can't seem to break. Try as I might, my mantra is always:
Outlines = good!
Sitting at my desk waiting to see what happens next = bad!
It's not to say that my stories don't adapt over time. Sometimes the outline needs changing as I work and I am flexible. Again, I have to be when writing licensed stuff. You never know when the licensor is going to throw a curveball when approving a story and you often have to be able to move quickly to make things work.
But when it comes to writing my own stuff the outline is always there; my constant companion, letting me know that everything is going to be all right and I really do know what I'm doing, honest guv.
This is why I am about to launch into a process that on many levels scares me silly. Tomorrow, my latest interactive e-book hits the Fiction Express website.
|Snaffles the Cat Burglar, |
scaring author Cavan Scott silly!
School children all over the country read the chapter and vote for their favourite option. I get the results of the vote on Tuesday and write what the pupils decided would happen next. Chapter two is published on the Friday, ending with another three options, and the entire process starts again.
It's the second story I've written for Fiction Express. The first was The Gloom Lord at the end of last year, and I found the entire process absolutely fascinating and utterly TERRIFYING!
There was no way I could plan, not really. Yes, I had a general idea of where the story was going, but I was handing the power over to my readers and having to – you guessed it – write by the seat of my pants, depending on what they chose every week. Most of the time I was completely shocked by the decisions they made. There was no way to predict how the vote would go.
I admit, this is a rather extreme way to get over my fear of pantsing, but it's an extremely effective one. The Gloom Lord taught me to 'go with the flow' more when writing, letting the story lead me rather than the other way around. With Snaffles, I'm aiming to take it one step further, throwing in even more random possibilities that will keep everyone – including me – guessing until right to the end.
I think I know what's going to happen to our feline felon, but I can't be sure.
Hopefully, I'll come out of the other end without reducing myself to a gibbering wreck. Or find myself covered in an unsightly rash. I'll let you know - but don't worry, if it's the latter I won't be posting photos.
He's written for Doctor Who, Skylanders, Judge Dredd, Angry Birds and Warhammer 40,000 among others. He also writes Roger the Dodger and other popular characters for The Beano but has yet to buy a black and red striped sweater. It's only a matter of time.
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