Apparently I’m a pantser. Who knew? I certainly didn’t when I decided in a rash moment of hubris to switch from travel writing to fiction. Whenever I’d answered authorly interview questions from those kind enough to feature me on their blogs and we’d got to the plotting or pantsing bit, I was easily able to sidestep the issue. When you write what really happens, it’s no different to ending an eventful working day in the pub, each incident becomes a funny story and eventually there’s a bookful.
This would be different though. This would be ‘proper writing’. But how do you start when you don’t yet know if you are a plotter or a pantser? Obviously you start with several hours learning your way around Scrivener. Oh look, you can put notes on a cork board! And you can develop your characters in individual files. Let’s do a corkboard for the whole thing…plan out where the plot points are, space out the beats and the cliffhangers correctly… Continue reading “A Non-Fiction Writer Switches to Fiction”
It’s an old saw for new authors: Write what you know. The advice explains why so many memoirs and how-to books are being published these days, but it’s small comfort for the beginning novelist whose life experiences don’t include travel to exotic locations, knowledge of police procedures, or service in the CIA.
Like many aspiring authors, I tried writing a novel—in my case, a political thriller—without a clue about the subject. About halfway through, my ignorance caught up with me. I never finished it. I had always heard the mantra, “Write what you know,” but I couldn’t imagine how what I knew would interest anybody. One day, when I was looking out my home office window, I thought, “What if my main character works at home? And what if he’s a do-it-yourselfer? And what if he likes to help his neighbors with their home projects and that gets him into trouble somehow?” I could write a story about that. Continue reading “Five Tips for Using What You Know to Write Fiction”
“Some of your characters leap off the page,” favourite beta reader told me, “but some are really flat.” I was miffed. This was a work of non-fiction, I was merely introducing the reader to people I bumped into on the road, why should that need any work?
I requested clarification, a little archly. She told me how much she liked Ooooors’la, the tiny lady who pronounced her own name as though she were unwell, and who drove her forklift truck with a pinkie finger raised as thought taking tea with the queen. I giggled, “Oh she was funny, I liked her…”
Then she listed the people she couldn’t quite see, the ones who stayed resolutely non-dimensional. “Well, I didn’t want to be nasty because I don’t want the book to be a bitch-fest.” As the conversation progressed, we twigged that the all the people I’d liked leapt off the page and the ones I’d hated stayed put, resolutely indistinguishable from each other. Continue reading “Who do you love?”