[Introduction: Melanie Stormm continues her humorous series of posts about the misdirected emails she’s been getting. Stormm is a multiracial writer who writes fiction, poetry, and audio theatre. Her novella, Last Poet of Wyrld’s End is available through Candlemark & Gleam. She is currently the editor at the SPECk, a monthly publication on speculative poetry by the SFPA. Find her in her virtual home at coldwildeyes.com. Wipe your feet before entering.]
PANTSERS VS. PLANNERS
Hello All, Melanie here.
It seems our friends are still trapped in the closet land of Writeria and the battle continues.
Oh, did you think I meant the battle between the native Fox People and the Dark Armies? No, my friends, that’s just background for the epic battle that’s been waging between writers who write without a plan (Brandon Sanderson—may he write forever, calls these types “discovery writers) and writers who develop an outline (Brandon Sanderson—may he write forever, calls these types “architects.”)
Personally, I’m neither of the two camps. In a world of Discoverers and Architects, I’m an Archeologist.
Without further ado…
Subject: HAVE TO CHARGE MY PHONE!!!1!
I’m sure you want to know EVERYTHING that’s going on with my writing, not to mention how we’re doing in my magical closet land called Writeria. That’s pronounced wry-TARE-ria and NOT like DIARRHEA like Tod Boadkins keeps saying!!!!
As for my newest pages, you are just going to have to wait because now I have a lot of Fox writers who are going to read my pages and give me feedback!!! My latest pages are handwritten because the battery on my laptop is dead but when I get them back from the foxes, I’ll make sure I send them to you, too. Once I figure out how to send you physical pages.
Maybe if I trap a small pigeon and feed it french fries and secretly bring it under my spell so that it flies through my closet and brings you my fresh pages…
But I’d have to tear the pages into very tiny pieces so that it could fly. It would take a TON of TRIPS. WELL, NO TIME LIKE HTE PRESENT, GLADYS!!!
Also, my battery on my phone is almost completely dead and I keep looking around in all the trees and I still haven’t found an outlet that is compatible with my phone!!!! Stupid tree outlets!!!
LOTS to catch up on!!!
Oh wait, you know what? I think I see Tod Boadkins over there in the hospital tent recovering from his arrow wound and scrolling on his phone. He still has battery!!!
Hang on, Gladys, I’ll have Tod Boadkins email you.
BTW, I’m NOT talking to him. The romance is almost definitely COMPLETELY OVER!!!! He is pushing his OUTLINING WAYS ON ME!!!!
Real writers don’t use outlines!!!!
Anyhoo, I’m going to go talk to him to tell him to email you about my writing and then I’m not talking to him again.
Off to look for a french-fry loving flying rat!!!!
From: Tod Boadkins
My name is Tod Boadkins. I’m the author of the dark fantasy novel, Broken Tides, published by Blood Wine Press late last year. Your friend, Writer X, has asked me to email you. She and I are currently dating, I’m not sure if she mentioned that to you.
Unfortunately, X hasn’t been clear about what I’m supposed to be emailing you about. I’m not sure how you’re going to read this email as I have no cell service out here. Every time she looks at me and sees me tapping letters into my phone she seems a little less mad at me.
I’m just going to keep typing and let X be none the wiser.
I noticed you have a Cradensburg email address. Is that where you live? I’m assuming that you’re another writer, knowing X? All of her friends that I’ve met seem to be writers of one kind or other, even Tryxy is a songwriter. Have you met Tryxy? He’s a hoot. If a hoot can also be terrifying.
I have no idea what I should be writing.
Not sure you’ve known X for very long, but I can advise one thing: don’t get her angry. It’s hard to land on the other side of her scowl. She appears to be the sort who could go to her grave holding a grudge, be dug up a thousand years later, and still have that grudge clasped in her adamantium claws.
Not complaining: I like the idea of women who don’t get over things easily. My ex-wife got over me pretty quickly. Leaves a poor taste in the mouth.
The taste doesn’t go away quickly, either.
Alright, since I seem to be typing to myself until X stops looking at me, care to hear why she’s pissed?
A stupid conversation about outlines. It could have been an intelligent conversation about outlines, but it became the dumbest conversation about outlines I have ever sank to the level of having.
Let me give you the background on what’s been happening as I need to contextualize this for myself.
A little over a week ago, X and I found a hole in the back of her writer’s closet. That hole led to this other land that X calls Writeria (sounds like diarrhea.) X invited myself and few of her writer friends to join her in Writeria for a weeklong vacation. Since we’ve gotten to this snow infested place, I have learned how to fly, our friend Silverfox has been captured, and we were attacked by Dark Armies.
I was also shot down by X’s fox friends. I suspect it had something to do with outlines.
Are you familiar with the writing expression “Plotters and Pantsers”? If not, here’s the rundown: plotters are writers who draw up an outline and have a sense of the structure of their book before they begin writing; pantsers are those writers who ‘fly by the seat of their pants.’ Most writers start as pants-ers and you know why?
Because writing is hard.
My mother used to embroider pillows. The side of the pillow that faces the viewer would have tchotchke rustic cottages and pictures of cranberries. The side of the pillow that I would see sitting at my mother’s knees was a hot mess.
Reading is like looking at the cottages and cranberries. Writing is living in the middle of the hot mess. For most, the process is much less intuitive than you think. We assume that, since reading is easy, the difficulty of writing should be proportional to the ease of the read.
Spoiler alert: it’s not.
At some point in your writing journey, you buckle in and realize that this is always going to be hard. Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes the words fly out of a secret stash in your wrists. But most times you have to liberate the words from a thousand miles of ice with a single pick axe and you think “there’s got to be an easier way.”
Young writers engage in a kind of tribalism. They divvy up across boundary lines and declare themselves Tribe Pantser or Tribe Plotter. If you suggest to the Plotter that maybe they should try free writing, they’ll smash their bottle of Moxie and glass you in the ribs. If you suggest to the Pantser—let’s call her “Writer Z” that perhaps the reason she keeps stalling out in her epic fantasy novel is because she needs get to the core of what her story structure is…
She will stop talking to you except to command you to write to her friend Gladys, even though you have no cell reception or wifi.
My mom embroidered anchors onto pillows and sold them at miserable country fairs. She also was a psychologist. I understand a few things about the human mind, thanks to her. The writer’s mind is a human mind, whatever the alien worlds we dream up.
What X is doing to me is simply denial. It’s not me she’s angry at. Denial happens when we’re confronted with a truth that makes us anxious. Writing is a daunting task and it takes many years to learn. What you don’t know is overwhelming and, if you feel too overwhelmed, you’re likely to quit. So writers wear their labels and methods as a shield against the idea that this is going to be hard and stay hard. We cling to the one thing we think we know to protect us from the reality of all we don’t know.
X wants to be famous by December. Call me weird, but I think it’s kind of adorable. At least she still has the courage to name her dreams. I know she’s terrified that I know more about writing than she does and some of it is pride. The other part of it is anxiety. But if I could just get her to see that I know a thing or two and, if she took my advice, she’d get more of her book written.
Just caught glimpse of my own denial. I want X to accept my advice because I’m afraid I don’t know as much as I think I do about writing. That’s why I’ve been strong arming her into accepting that my way is better.
Wow, Gladys. You’re good. You should start charging people to write you emails.
Let me close this quickly. We’re camping with a tribe of fox people (I know, unreal.) We’re on our way to the kingdom capitol to rendezvous with the “royal kitten” (???). Somewhere on the other side of that, X is going to “talk to the manager” of Writeria to make her writing life easier.
To abuse a cliché, if she’s happy…I think I’m happy, too.
I should go. There’s a nasally-voiced, doe-eyed writer in pink I need to apologize to.