Pantser or Plotter?

There are two types of writers, or so they say. Pantsers and plotters.

A pantser is someone who starts writing and keeps writing straight through until the end of the book, making no plans in the mean time and letting the story take them where they will take them. It’s a somewhat stressful, yet still pretty fun way of writing, hoping that you encounter no problems but if you do, you can go with your instinct and keep going as you want.

A plotter is someone who plans out their story before they sit down to paper and get writing. They come up with characters, plot and any little details they think they’re going to need while they’re writing. They know the ending already and they go at their writing without worrying about not knowing where things are going, instead running into the trouble of their story taking on a very different turn than they want to go in that isn’t a part of the plot.

I’m a plotter myself. I tend to get ideas when I’m in the midst of working on something else and jot it down when I can, then let it stew in the back of my mind until I have a little time. From there, I work out what needs to happen in the plot, some semblance of an ending and the main characters. I also get a notebook for the project so I have a space to jot down any further ideas and have a dedicated stack of paper to write on while I’m working on a project.

Still, I do like a little spontaneity when I’m writing. As such, my plots tend to consist of only about 3 pages of points I have to hit in order. I don’t plan out how they get from point to point and I don’t plan out characters outside of the main cast. Even those characters are subject to change as I’m writing, as are the plot points. I find doing this keeps things interesting enough that I don’t get bored while I’m writing.

What about you guys? Are you pantsers or plotters?

Don’t Fear the Medium

A large part of what I learned in SIAT was based around this one quote by Marshall McLuhan. The medium is the message. And I’ll be honest, I hated that quote and still get that little flash of red in the back of my mind when I hear it. It was stretched and twisted until it fit with every point that the professor wanted to make, or introduced and quickly dropped at the start of class. By the end of school, it was just a footnote at the back of my mind to be brought up when I wanted to sound smart. That was all.

And then I discovered transmedia storytelling and I did a little more thinking about it in that context.

Now don’t get me wrong. I still think that the message is the message. The medium, though, works as a platform and choosing the right platform is an important part of getting the message across. More than that, choosing your medium, the one you want to focus in as a writer, shouldn’t be something you choose lightly.

Stories are a strange thing to start with. They start as something small, just an idea, that a writer takes and shapes to be whatever they are going to be. To many people that’s enough. They want to be a novelist, they have an idea for a story and they write a novel. That works most of the time, but I’ve started add an extra little step in there, after the idea and before the writing.

I pick a medium.

I want to be a novelist. I know that’s one of my ambitions, but when I look back on my stories, not all of them are a good fit for novels. I have an idea for an ongoing super hero series that is really better suited for a more visual medium. I have an idea for a story about demons flooding a snowed in campus that would be more spectacular with a different ambiance entirely with different characters. There’s a whole series I want to make that revolves around characters that are all equally interesting, but as a book would get bogged down transitioning between them all.

For me, my stories aren’t clearly defined as novels anymore. While I still want to write novels, I know that’s not always what’s best for my fiction. I’d love to write them as novels, really. I know how to write a piece of prose better than I do any script, but that’s not the best medium for them. I could twist and shape them into the shapes I want them, but I doubt that I’ll be satisfied with the end result.

Because of this, I’m exploring more. I’m learning how to write for comics, still image by still image, and learning to split up dialogue for the medium. I’m learning about animation techniques, audio and voice acting for animation. I’m learning about the different sorts of narrative driven games so that I can write for those sorts of games as the narrative demands.

So how many other people are doing this? Is there anyone else out there who thinks about what medium their story is best told in before they start writing, or do you make your story work for the medium you want to write for?

Reading While Writing

Reading while you’re writing is a bit of an interesting subject. Reading is a good habit for a writer to have, but on the other hand there are some problems that arise when you write while you’re reading. You could draw too much influence or outright copy something by complete accident.

I, however, don’t like to let something like writing stop me from reading. If I did that, I might never actually get any reading done because I’m always working on some narrative project in some form or another. Instead, I’ve found a balance in two forms.

First, I don’t read anything similar to what I’m writing within a month of working on it. If I read something in a different genre with a different tone, generally I don’t have to worry about the influence bleeding over much.

The second is, believe it or not, graphic novels. I’m a huge comic book fan and graphic novels are this great alternative in another medium that I find doesn’t really influence my prose as much as it probably could. Granted, I don’t read much in the way of super heroes and do read things that are actually a little closer to the stuff I write, but I do try to avoid similar narratives in comics as well.

So what about you? Can you read when you’re writing?

Inspiration, Muse and That Other Thing

I wasn’t terribly concerned about being right as a child, I will admit. I was quiet and didn’t ask a lot of questions, finding that the information I wanted usually found its way to me. Those answers that didn’t come to me and I didn’t otherwise find an answer to, I made up answers that made sense to me.

Why do I bring this up now? Because I’m going to talk about how my stories happen and I’m going to be talking about things as I came to understand them as opposed to how they’re actually stated in accordance with reputable sources such as dictionaries.

The first step to a story is the inspiration. It’s just a spark of an idea that snowballs out of control. It happens on rare occasions, or maybe several at a time, but when it comes, I do try never to miss the opportunity. I’ll only know parts, but those parts are so much fun that I absolutely must do something with them. At this point I try to write down every loose, unconnected bit and ride out the inspiration for as long as it lasts. Usually, I only get as far as the basic concept and a few scenes at this point. Maybe a couple key characters show up as well.

And then the inspiration passes. It’s all been written down and I take a breath. The idea sits in my mind and I do nothing with it for a bit.

It’s at this point that the story’s muse is born. From that initial spark of an idea, they start nagging at the back of my mind within the underdeveloped mess of ideas and insist that I get to work making this all make proper sense. Where the inspiration has left the idea, the muse helps to make it into a story, meticulously creating characters and plot that actually makes things flow from one bit to the next. The events, the subplots, all of that is in the hands of the muse. It helps me create an outline and character notes so I know what happens and won’t get stuck writing.

So that’s it, right? That’s how the story is made. With just the inspiration and the muse that’s made the inspiration into something I can put down onto the page, that’s the end of it.

Except for the other thing.

The other thing happens to be the thing that causes all of my writer’s block. The thing without name. It’s not lack of inspiration, because that’s already come and given me lots to work on. It’s not the muse, who has ensured I have an outline and will always know what to write next.

The other thing is actually writing it down, the words coming out and creating the sentences that turn into paragraphs. The hard part and the fun part. The part that everyone can actually see once it’s all done with. The other thing is the technical getting down to work bit and it’s the last piece in the story puzzle. Once that’s done, the story exists physically (digitally, I guess, since I write on a computer) and the muse can finally rest.

Well, until the edit, anyway.

A New Direction

There has been a change on the site, as some of you may have noticed. There’s a new layout and there are some things missing. There is a reason for this one.

I’m a writer. I’m a web designer as well, but that’s been put elsewhere and I’m going to use this part of the site to be more of a writer. I have a book that I’ve been hesitant to talk about, a lot of writing experiences I want to mention and whatnot because I’ve been worried about things like branding. Now that I’ve separated the two, I’m going to be posting a lot more about writing and my journey to getting published.

I’m also going to try to post once a week on a bit of a schedule. In the mean time, however, I still have some site tweaks to get back to. Have fun everyone!

Final Snow Concept Art

Among the many things I’m working on there’s an animation project temporarily named Final Snow. I wrote the script during Script Frenzy, it’s been edited and now I’m working with an animator, Victoria Sticha, who is kind enough to do the hard work of animating. Recently she got back to me with some of the concept art and, well, I’m excited. Also, I feel the need to show them off.

The initial sketches:

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And then, more finalized art. Left to right: Adrian, Layla and Chase:

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Hopefully we can finalize a title for it soon.