Magical Pantsing and Finding Your Creative Flow

I put up my Halloween decorations yesterday – and brought in the hummingbird feeders at the same time. That felt like a symmetrical seasonal changeover, all happening in the due course of the seasons.

So, on Monday, in a fit of frustrated eye-rolling, I fired off this tweet:

To my vast surprise, this tweet has received SO MANY likes and responses. Clearly I wasn’t the only one feeling this frustration. Quite a few people wrote back about feeling the pressure to learn to pre-plot. I’ve felt it, too. There’s a strong opinion in the writing community – and maybe in the world at large – that outlining and pre-plotting is the best way to write. That it’s faster, more organized, requires less revision later.

The thing is: it’s just not true.

I mean, sure for some people, that process works. It’s certainly the one we’re taught in school (for the most part). But I was the student who hated trying to write an outline before I wrote the paper. I tried, but it was agonizing. Finally I figured out to just write the paper, then make an outline from it, and turn that in. If the teacher or professor had comments or tweaks (which almost never happened), I could add them in. Though those were the days before word processing, so I’d have to retype the paper. STILL, doing it that way was faster for me, and produced better work.

This is key: we must find what works for each of us individually and honor that process. Those people who insist that we not only CAN learn a “better” way, but *should* – and I can vouch that a few people popped into my timeline to say things like “No offense, but you have to learn this if you want to sell books” – are not being helpful. (Also, I really think that if you feel compelled to start a reply with “No offense, but…” or “Honestly…” then maybe you’re not engaging in a  positive way.)

But “Pantsing” – derived from the phrase “fly by the seat of your pants,” and not my favorite descriptor by a long shot – is a way to access creative flow. I prefer to call it Writing for Discovery or Gardening. (I talked about this more on yesterday’s podcast, but for those who don’t listen, I’m reiterating a bit here.) For me, getting into the trance of writing opens up portals to other places, and the story flows in from there. “Gardening” is an analogy with a similar feel, where the beginning of the story is all planting seeds, the middle is nourishing the garden, and the ending is when it blossoms – and you discover what you’ve got.

Writing this way is absolutely an act of faith. It requires giving up conscious control of the story, which feels most uncomfortable to many people. It’s really the opposite of the academically taught methods, which focus on a cerebral approach. Sure, I get that many of my author friends access creative and subconscious flow in pre-plotting a story and writing the outline. Sadly, those conscious brain activities open no portals for me.

Several responders made the point that perhaps more pre-plotting and story-planning classes are taught because those methods *are* eminently more teachable. Which is a super valid point. In some ways, teaching someone to give up control and leap into the creative flow is nearly impossible. It’s so individual.

BUT, I think we can teach that this is an absolutely viable – and magical – way to access stories. We can make it clear that many, many authors who sell books (myself included) write this way. And we can talk about ways to open those portals, and how to keep them open. Also: not to panic.

So, I think I’m going to try this. I’m seeing about setting up a class. I’m also considering podcasting daily during NaNoWriMo with tips on pantsing your way through the month-long challenge. (There is, apparently, a podcast version called NaPodPoMo.) I’m also considering getting the author coaching set up and providing personalized support for writers during NaNoWriMo. If any of these ideas sound good to you, please let me know!

 

Cover Reveal! THE FIERY CROWN

The cover of THE FIERY CROWN is being revealed at Tor.com today! This is book two in my Forgotten Empires trilogy – out May 26, 2020 – following THE ORCHID THRONE, which is out now.

Here’s an article about the book launch signing. (I kind of love that Kamala Harris is smiling over my shoulder like a beaming guardian angel of goodness.)

There have been so many lovely reviews and wonderful feedback for THE ORCHID THRONE that these last couple of weeks have been an E-ticket Cinderella Ride. (I know the Disneyland reference is dated, but Julie Brown will never go out of style. I’ll plant a flag on that hill.) I particularly love this review on a BookBub recommendation.

If you’ve been missing Rhysand and Feyre, the Night Court, and the realm of Fae, The Orchid Throne by Jeffe Kennedy is for you! To say I loved this book is an understatement. I devoured it! This book has something for everyone and is a must-read for fantasy fans. Following the story of two very different people, The Orchid Throne sets up the world of the Forgotten Empires, hooking the readers with its lush fantasy, political intrigue, and steamy romance.

As a fan of Rhys and Feyre, myself, I totally preened over this!

Otherwise, I’m deep into working on THE FATE OF THE TALA. Those of you who listen to my First Cup of Coffee podcast will know that I’m keeping the protagonist of this one a secret, which means I haven’t been posting snippets as I’d like to. But I have the (incredibly gorgeous and powerful) cover in hand, and we’ll do a reveal sometime in the first week of November. Then ALLLLLL will be revealed! Because of course, in the grand tradition of The Twelve Kingdoms and The Uncharted Realms, the protagonist is on the cover. I hope to have the book out by Thanksgiving, so we’ll see!

And for those of you who’ve been asking… yes, Jenna/Ivariel will make an appearance. 🙂

 

MileHiCon

I’ll be at MileHiCon this weekend.

October  18, 19, 20, 2019

Hyatt Regency Hotel – Tech Center

7800 E. Tufts Ave.
Denver CO

Programming is expected to start around 2:00pm Friday October 18th and will continue through Sunday afternoon.

More than 100 science fiction/fantasy/horror authors, artists and other participants will speak and autograph books at the annual MileHiCon science fiction/ fantasy/horror literary convention. For SF/F and speculative fiction lovers, it’s a weekend not to be missed. The convention will feature authors, artists, speakers and programming on every aspect of the science fiction and fantasy genres

Career Goals for the Established Author – a Work in Progress

Here’s a little tease of the cover of THE FIERY CROWN, sequel to THE ORCHID THRONE, and book two in the Forgotten Empires trilogy. The full cover will be revealed on Wednesday, October 16, at Tor.com. There will also be a sneak peek of the first chapter!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is the big career goal to which we currently aspire. Come on over to where I’m spilling mine.