Guest Post: Planner or Pantser: Craig Hallam
First of all, hello everyone, and thanks to Pete for having me. I’m Craig, and don’t feel bad, you shouldn’t have heard of me. I’ve never written anything you’ve read and even your most Hipster of friends isn’t alternative enough to know what’s going in my writing career. However, I’m hoping that’s all going to change. Soon, I hope to be able to consider myself a Pseudo-writer. It’s all riding on the release of Greaveburn, my debut novel (no pressure there, then).
However, what I lack in wads of filthy cash and literary prestige, I’ve gained in experience of what it is to be an amateur writer. And so Pete has tossed me this question…Planner or Pantser?
This is actually a pretty tough one. I have a tendency to avoid anything that means organising myself, or generally making my life easier. When people ask where I get my ideas from, I tend to answer with an analogy based on the Big Bang. With enough random, disorganised stuff lying around in my head, something is bound to collide at some point, creating the ever-coveted Inspiration Particle. And when it does…woohoo! But that’s a pretty chaotic way of looking at it.
On the flip side, I’m a fan of Post-Its, and I love my notebooks. But the Post-Its fall down eventually and I can never commit to just one notebook at a time. I’m a notebook bigamist. So that doesn’t get me any closer to being an organised planner. Sometimes I have to search back through pages of scribble and doodles to find something I’m looking for. And that leads to all kinds of distractions. Greaveburn had snippets of character, plot and description scattered across loose sheets of lined A4 and three separate notebooks by the time I was done writing the first draft. It’s a wonder I ever got it all together. Or maybe I didn’t, and there’s some hidden Director’s Cut material hanging around somewhere. Who knows?
But, as I started work on my next project, I have seen the light. It is shiny, and it is called Evernote. I’m far from a tech-head, but this app really sorted me out. Anything you type into your phone (which I never forget, like I do with notebooks) gets instantly saved. You can have several ‘notebooks’ for different things, and they are filed away with a category to make it easier to find later. But to beat it all, what you type in gets uploaded to the internet, so that if you lose your phone/drop it into a bottomless pit/aliens use it as a proxy server to call home and fry it, you don’t lose a thing! It’s all there waiting for you! Much recommended, folks.
But that’s just the pre-writing stage.
When it comes to writing proper, actually sitting down and typing, I don’t really plan very much (shocker!). But I do a lot of re-running in my head. My characters are in there, I know the general plot and the way I expect things to go (although we all know how that ends up). And I play the story to myself, like a movie, over and over, weedling at the plot out as I go along. The beauty of this very visual method is that when I put my fingers on the keyboard, the description pretty much writes itself. The more vivid it is to me, the more vivid it is to the reader (hopefully). There’s a downside to this internal method, though, especially when writing some of my horror stories. I have a tendency to freak myself out. That monster outside the bedroom door is outside MY bedroom and I find myself walking around with the lights on a lot. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. If it scares me enough, hopefully it will scare you too.
I think I’m leaning more toward being a Pantser, so far. Unless research counts. I’m a research fiend. If I’m writing about a particular time period, or place, or the character has a certain job for example, I’m all over it. I recently used Google Maps’ street view to get an idea of what a certain part of India looked like, and researched the whole Indian Revolution in the late 1800s for the same story. I didn’t use any of the info, really, but I felt a lot more confident in what I was doing with the information in my head. Research is king.
Anyways, like the true politician I am (note the sarcasm), I’ve managed to talk a lot and not actually answer any questions here. And so, reading back over this post myself, I think I now know that I’m a proud Pantser (bit like a panther, but less cool and wearing y-fronts). And I’ll be tweeting to that effect very soon.
Thanks for reading.
Greaveburn hits the shelves (both virtual and corporeal) in most major book retailers on August 20th from Inspired Quill Publishing.
Filed under: Guest Post, Writing | 9 Comments
Tags: Craig Hallam, Evernote, Greaveburn, Writing