Writing, Blogging, and Wearing Pants

Some weeks seem to go on forever, stretching like a piece of hot mozzarella. Others… Well, I’m not quite sure where the last seven days went. It doesn’t seem like I should be writing another writing wrap-up yet. But my calendar says its Wednesday, and who am I to argue? (If for no other reason than because the calendar is much better at stony silence than I am.)

I’m pleased to say that I’m now on day 16 of my 100 Words for 100 Days challenge. This week I wrote 1000 wordson my WIP, whic brought me to the end of chapter 2, and a good way through chapter 3. I’m also back to writing “new stuff”, which is super-double-exciting (as my 4-year-old would say). I’m really enjoying my writing, and am looking forward to continuing to nail those words to the page.

If you were reading last week, you may remember that I was a bit disappointed in myself when I only wrote 900 words for the week. A couple of people pointed out that I shouldn’t be disappointed when I’d succeeded in reaching my goal, and that set me to thinking.

What is my goal?

100 Words for 100 Days is great. It’s fantastic. It encourages me to write every day, rather than “saving up” for a couple of big writing days a week. And that’s why I started the challenge in the first place. (Which is why I can’t just “skip a day” and then continue with the challenge.) But writing 100 words every day doesn’t feel like much of an achievement. I want that 100 words to be the minimum acceptable level of writing, not the target.

That got me thinking about what I’m actually aiming for, and I was able to put it into words when I was talking with a great writing-buddy last Sunday. I’m going to put it out there now for everyone to see, and damn the torpedoes.

I want to finish the first draft of this novel by the end of October.

There are a multitude of reasons for this. (1) I also want to take part in NaNoWriMo this year, and it would be easier if I have finished this project and can move on to without guilt. (2) After NaNo, I will hopefully have achieved some emotional separation from this novel, and will be able to look at editing it in December. (3) At the beginning of the year, I said that I was going to take this year off work to concentrate on writing, so that I could prove to myself that I could make a career of it. (Alright, I was also having a baby, but let’s ignore that for the moment.) Finishing by the end of October gives me a better chance of doing so. (4) Because I damn well want to, and I’m just stubborn like that.

I still believe I can achieve this goal, but it means that I need to be writing almost 5000 words a week, not 1000. Something needs to change. A lot of somethings need to change. But the primary one is the amount of writing time I have on a daily basis.

My first thought was that I could save myself an hour or two every day if I sent my kids out to scavenge their own food on the streets, rather than spending all that time preparing, cooking, serving, and cleaning up dinner each night. But that seemed a little unfair. Especially since Baby can’t even crawl yet.

Instead, I’ve decided to cut back on blogging.

Up until now, I’ve been blogging every day. And loving it. But I can grant myself a bit extra time each week by cutting out a couple of posts, and I’ll still be posting 5 times a week. My new blogging schedule looks like this:

  • Monday: Monday’s Top 5 – A list of my 5 favourite posts from the blogosphere last week.
  • Tuesday: Flash Fiction – This may not happen every week, but will be a chance for me to stretch my storytelling muscles in a different direction, and share the results with you, my readers.
  • Wednesday: All things Writing – Incorporating my usual Wednesday Writing Wrap-Up and Friday’s Writing Thoughts.
  • Friday: Life As We Know It – Kids, Parenting, Opinions, and other Random Things.
  • Saturday: Books, Authors, and Other Geekery.

This is going to start as of ….. now. So wish me luck with writing rather than posting tomorrow!

In a mostly unrelated topic…

I don’t just spend my time writing long, rambling blog posts. I also spend it reading blogs. At last count, I was subscribed to just over 70 blogs through Google Reader. Of those 70, I’d hazard a guess that 50 are related to writing, writers, or publishing in some shape or form. So I read a lot of posts about how to write, how to edit, how to get an agent, how to get published, how to self-publish, etc. etc. etc. I also try to read as many of the comments other people post as possible.

Over the last week, I’ve become increasingly aware of how many people preface their comments with phrases like: “I’m a pantser, so I don’t…” or “I can’t do that, because I’m a planner…” or “Because I’m a pantser, I only….” or even “I’m part of the ‘planner’ club, and…”

Really? Because I don’t remember getting my secret decoder ring when I joined the panster club.

Now, I’m not saying that Pansters and Plotters don’t exist. But I didn’t think the two styles were so mutually exclusive that the skills of one don’t apply to the other. Nor did I think we were supposed to add our preferred style to the end of our name, like some kind of class designation. “Hello. I’m Jo Eberhardt – Panster Extraordinaire.”

(If there’s any non-writers still brave enough to be reading this, let me explain. Pansters sit and write by the “seat of their pants”, watching the story unfold as they do so. Plotters work out the plot first, often via a detailed outline, before they start to write.)

It’s easy to fall back on something like being a pantser or a plotter as a way of avoiding stepping outside our comfort zones. It’s not impossible to move from one camp to the other. It’s not impossible to use different styles for different projects. And while it may be helpful to understand your own preferred writing style, I don’t think it’s helpful to pigeon-hole yourself so tightly that you don’t expand your skill base.

What do you think?

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24 Comments

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24 responses to “Writing, Blogging, and Wearing Pants

  1. Good luck with your October goal! You’re absolutely right to cut back on blogging if that’s what it takes.

    But really, that baby had better start pulling its weight pretty soon. 🙂

  2. I am in agreement with your last statement. Half of the time I’m a pantser. The other half a plotter. It just depends on my mood. Plus, I don’t like being “labeled” as one or the other. I may have a weird writing style, but it works for me. Mostly…

    Either way, good luck with your goals! I’m terrified to do NaNoWriMo. A novel in a month scares me. 😉

    I don’t blog everyday, because it detracts from my writing, so I understand having to take your time away from so much blogging. But it’s pretty addictive, isn’t it? 😉

    • I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, there. “It works for me.” Rather than labelling ourselves, I think it’s more important to know what works for you. I’m generally a ‘pantser’ in that I prefer to just sit and write rather than plotting/outlining in advance. But I get to a point in my writing (usually about halfway through) where I need to stop and write my own type of outline to make sure I tie everything together in the end. I can’t pants my way through the whole novel. Good on you for knowing what works for you!

      Haha. I just think NaNo’s a lot of fun. It’s another way to try to write a “bad” first draft where you focus more on getting the words down than what those words actually are. I wouldn’t want to try to write an intricately-plotted mystery or anything, though. The sense of community and support on the forums is phenomenal, and always inspiring. Although, much as you said about blogging, it can be quite addictive…

      • “But I get to a point in my writing (usually about halfway through) where I need to stop and write my own type of outline to make sure I tie everything together in the end. I can’t pants my way through the whole novel.”
        I usually have to do that as well. I write about a one or two sentence synopsis for about five chapters, write, do it again if I have to, and then write some more.
        NaNoWriMo does seem like a good way to write that bad first draft, and a sense of community is always good while writing. That’s another reason I love blogging. It keeps me in touch with all of you wonderful writers, and I get amazing advice from y’all.

      • This is (obviously) the first year that I’ve been blogging, and I may not need be so desperately in need of the NaNo community anymore. I love the way I get so much support from everyone who reads this blog, whether I’m meeting my goals or falling off the wagon. You guys rock.

  3. I can’t imagine blogging every day. I’ve been posting once a week for nearly six years, and it works for me. Sometimes I throw in a mid-week post (as I may this week), but mostly not. Slow but steady is my way, I guess (which is why I can’t imagine doing NaNo, as I wrote about here: http://u-town.com/collins/?p=1357)

    I occasionally self-identify as a pantser (mostly when I’m commenting on a post by a plotter, indicating that my comments should be taken with that in mind), but I’m with Emerald. I’ll pants, I’ll plot, I’ll type, I’ll handwrite, I’ll do whatever it takes to get a project done right.

    • I didn’t start out expecting to blog everyday, it just happened. And then I was addicted. Sometimes I’ve had to force myself to schedule the posts I’ve written rather than post multiple times in one day. I put it down to (1) as it says on my ‘About’ page, feeling happy in the presence of words, (2) loving to stalk, write, and share my thoughts, and (3) my husband working shift-work, which results in my spending the majority of evenings alone after the kids are in bed, with him either at work or asleep in preparation for a super-early-morning start.

      And I can’t imagine a little thing like a label getting in the way of you doing things your own way, in your own time. 🙂

  4. Hey, Jo, congrats on the 15 days. That’s about where I am, this go-round. Halfway through the current project and hoping to have it finished in time to enter it in the Golden Heart in November (unless lightning strikes and I sell something, which doesn’t seem to be in the immediate future).
    As for pansters and plotters, I think I fall somewhere in the middle. I usually have a very general idea of where I’m going, with a lot of blanks to fill in. And then the story takes an unexpected turn and all bets are off–except for the Happy Ending.

    • Thanks, Kay. And it’s good to hear from you again! You’ve been quiet lately, what with that whole being-a-Golden-Heart-finalist-at-the-RWA-National-Conference thing. 🙂 I’m glad to hear that your writing’s going well, too.

      It’s so great to hear that so many people identify as being somewhere between a plotter and a pantser. Reading a lot of blogs, you’d think the two groups were mortal enemies!

  5. I’m pantsing a novel right now, but I do have some ideas about where it needs to go. It’s only my third novel, so I certainly do not have a set system, but my last book started with a very skimpy first draft, which I later fleshed out significantly. You could say my first draft is a very detailed outline.

    • Tamara, that’s a good point. Different books need different things. My first was fairly tightly plotted (it’s a mystery, quite short) and the second was mostly pantsed (it’s very long), especially the first half.

      As the saying goes, “You never learn how to write a novel. You only learn to write the novel you’re on.”

      • Yes, I firmly believe a mystery needs to have a good outline, otherwise the clues won’t make sense.

      • Anthony: That’s so true. And it’s both frustrating and exciting, isn’t it?

        Tamara: I agree. I can’t imagine pantsing my way through a detailed mystery without an outline. I’d probably get to the end, change my mind about the killer, and then find that I had to rewrite everything all over again.

      • Tamara, I’d say yes and no. I just finished a series of thirteen mystery stories, and it really varied. Some of them I had a pretty good idea “who done it” from the beginning. Others I started writing without even knowing what the crime was, let alone who had committed it.

  6. I think the cutting back on blogging will definately help with your writing. I have also found that since I defined specific topics to particular days of the week I often know what I am going to blog about on a particular day a week or even two weeks into the future (I even have a spreadsheet – does that suggest that I am a planner!) Sometimes, when I am being very organised – I even start writing the blogs in advance 😛 The ROW80 challenge has really helped me with increasing my writing, you get to set your own goals and everyone is super supportive. I love it!

    • I hope so! I thought about doing the ROW80, but decided that one challenge at a time was probably enough. You seem to be going really well with it, though. Perhaps I’ll sign up for the next one.

      And, yes, I think that does make you a planner. 🙂

  7. Yes, the dichotomy between Planner and Pantser is somewhat a false one. It’s really a continuum – and I suspect very few writers are really at the far ends of one extreme or the other. So, in fact, a lot of skills and techniques that are useful for one are equally applicable to the other. Myself, I lean toward the “planner” end, but under some circumstances I will pants it. Heck… when I’m “planning”, I’m “pantsing” the plan – it’s not like I’m following some other pre-proscribed plan I have to make it up when I make the plan… so the skill is essentially the same.

    That’s why I try not to ignore advice and thoughts from either end of the perspective.

    • “When I’m “planning”, I’m “pantsing” the plan.”

      That’s such a great statement. And I find your response especially interesting, because if I were to judge from your blog alone, I would guess you were the penultimate planner.

    • “Heck… when I’m ‘planning,’ I’m ‘pantsing’ the plan”
      Well, I agree with Jo; that seems to settle the question. Unless you’re writing according to a formula (like many Hollywood movies, for example), you’ll be pantsing at some point in the process. Excellent point.

      • Really, Anthony? This may be the first time that you’ve ever agreed with me without a caveat thrown in. I think I’m going to open a bottle of bubbly. 🙂

  8. Thank you for explaining the pantster thing. I felt like a loser.

    I’ll miss reading your blog. I want to write…more…more than a blog. I’m not nearly as courageous as you though. Good luck, I can’t wait to read your novel.

    I mean that.

  9. Pingback: Can’t Talk. Writing. | The Happy Logophile

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