‘WHERE’S THE REST OF IT??!!’ exclaimed a frustrated friend to me on finishing the first three chapters of my first novel.
‘Um, I’m still writing it,’ I said, stating the obvious.
‘Yes, but I want to know what happens next.’
I grinned: ‘Me too!’
You see, the weird thing about writing fiction is you don’t necessarily know what happens next. Some writers are plotters – they plan out the entire book frame-by-frame before they start writing. Others are ‘pantsers‘ – they literally write by the seat of their pants, making it up as they go along.
Anyone who knows me knows that I like to be highly organised. I live my life by ‘to do’ lists and calendar entries and outlines.
After pantsing my way through the first 40,000 words, I started trying to write my book the same way – with a full chapter outline – and nearly killed my novel. It turns out I’m leaning towards the ‘pantser’ end of the scale when it comes to novel writing.
The exciting thing about being a pantser is that things happen when you’re writing that you don’t expect. New characters appear out of nowhere and start to integrate themselves into the fabric of the story. Entire unforeseen events pop up and derail a whole branch of the narrative.
I came home from work one night last week and said to my husband, ‘I’m feeling a little shaken. Aliens just landed and destroyed the sun and kidnapped a goat from the backyard.’ (No, that’s not actually what I wrote/said – but I’ve substituted, to avoid spoilers…). He just laughed, knowing that I’d been writing on my laptop during my train commute home.
This morning I’ve been working on a scene that I’m really excited about. I’m getting to the pointy end of the plot and my main character has just met someone who can solve a major mystery for her. I’m on the edge of my seat, waiting to find out what he’s going to say. When I opened my laptop a couple of hours ago, even I had no idea what he was going to say. I just started typing. And then he started talking. Words came out of his mouth and my main character sat back and blinked, trying to process this new information and figure out what to do with it.
I did exactly the same thing.
The bizarre thing about writing fiction is that it’s almost like reading fiction. I want to sit down and keep writing because I want to know what happens next. I need to finish the story because I have to know the ending.
It’s also a pain in the bum because writing is MUCH harder and MUCH slower than reading.
The good news is that next month is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I will finish the first draft of this novel by the end of November. I’ve only got around 27,000 words to go – that’s barely more than half of what most NaNoWriMo writers are aiming for – the golden 50,000 words in 30 days!