Yay! I’m back from my vacation break, and I want to give a humongous shout out to all my guest bloggers: Rachel, Tamar, Rhoda, and Amy. (And a bonus shout out to Kerry, who filled in ahead of time to give me a chance to pack.) Weren’t they fantastic?
I also want to thank all of you for helping spread the word about their posts. I didn’t get to thank people for tweets and mentions like I usually try to do since my internet access was spotty at best, but I greatly appreciate everyone’s involvement. I hope the posts were helpful for you!
The winners of my blogiversary contest are announced below, and as of this past Sunday, I officially passed my five year blogiversary. Holy cow. Five years. *boggles*
Given that for most of my life I’ve been rather…um, flighty? in my interests, five years doing anything is serious business for me. I’m the kind of person who changed her college major before freshman year even started. Who enjoyed changing jobs every year (or even every couple of weeks). Who moved even more frequently.
So to stick with something for five years? This writing thing must be love. *smile*
Are You a Pantser or a Plotter in Real Life?
I’ve often mentioned that I’m a pantser, writing by the seat of my pants. Yet in normal life, I’m a planner/plotter to the extreme. That can be good or bad.
Even when we think we know how things should work, life happens. Plans can change. And sometimes adjusting to those changes can be difficult.
If you saw my post on Facebook, you know this vacation didn’t quite go as planned. My family met up with my parents and my brother and his family, and 10 of the 11 of us promptly started sharing germs, and we all felt sick much of the time.
(Tangent: I’ve had several people ask for an update on my brother. If you weren’t around last October, my brother had brain surgery to remove a tumor. His biggest challenges post-surgery were balance issues and facial paralysis from nerve damage. The paralysis is minor now, and he did one of those rope climbing obstacle courses on this trip, so his balance is much improved too. Yay!)
Regardless of our illnesses, we all decided the show must go on. (I get my stubbornness—er, determination from somewhere, after all.) And we’re not a chilling-on-the-beach-or-in-a-mountain-cabin family. If we don’t need a vacation to recover from our vacation, we think we’re doing it wrong. *grin*
The “Dangers” of Making Plans
We still managed to visit and do everything on our packed to-do list by cutting back…a little. Rather than spending all day at the water park, we spent a few hours. Rather than doing All. The. Things. at the museum, we hit only the highlights. Etc.
This “determination” is why outlining or plotting out a story doesn’t work for me. If something is planned, I’m going to make sure it happens. No matter what.
On my sickest day, I still went on a 2 mile hike with an elevation change of 700+ feet. Going on this hike to a waterfall was on “the list,” and I wasn’t going to let congestion and a fever hold me back, gosh darn it.
(Why yes, as a matter of fact, I do qualify as a “Too Stupid To Live” heroine sometimes. *smile*)
That personality trait is why, despite my love of story structure and beat sheets, I don’t write down my writing ideas or plans in advance. Determination is good, but strict adherence to The Plan (TM) can get in the way of a great story.
Writing Requires Flexibility
Others with similar personality traits can find themselves paralyzed by the thought of needing to get their first draft “right.” They’ve read all the advice about what to include in the first page, first scene, first chapter. They know what’s needed to hook a reader.
And they want to make sure they have all that in place from the get-go. They don’t want to get their draft “wrong.”
That’s crazy-making, however. A draft is just a draft. It doesn’t need to be perfect. It won’t be perfect.
A draft—a first draft especially—is a tool to help us discover the story we want to tell, the characters we want to meet, and the themes we want to explore. That’s it.
We might end up with something close, or we might not. We hope we get closer with each successive draft.
But especially when we’re first starting as writers, our first draft might not be as close to done or perfect or matching-the-story-in-our-head as we want. It won’t be perfect, and that’s okay. That’s what revisions and editing are for. *smile*
Writing Drafts Are Not the Final Word
It’s because of this truth about writing that I’m disheartened by the marketing and buzz surrounding Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. It’s being marketed as a “sequel” to To Kill a Mockingbird, and the buzz is making it sound like it’s revealing the “truth” about the character of Atticus.
However, the real truth is that this manuscript is an early draft of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s Harper Lee’s first stab at the premise of exploring racism in the South.
It’s certainly not a sequel. And the characters within this early draft are certainly not more “true” than those within the final draft that was published decades ago.
Those issues don’t even touch the question of whether Harper Lee really wanted this manuscript published at all. We have the word only of those who stand to profit from its release, and their claims of Harper Lee’s mental and physical ability to consent don’t match those of some of her longtime friends.
Writing that Changes for the Better Is a Success
Just last month, I completed a revision of a story that completely changed the motivations of a main character in the big climax ending. These were not minor changes.
The character changed from near-suicidal to fighting her fate. I made those changes for a reason.
I would be furious if someone found a copy of that earlier draft and declared it to be “true.” To expose the “real” character. To, in fact, supersede the final draft.
I, for one, won’t be reading Go Set a Watchman. Or if I do, I’ll be looking at it as the early draft that it is, and I’ll marvel at the power of revising and editing to change a story for the better. After all, Harper Lee received feedback and revision suggestions just as we all do, and given the success and literary accolades of To Kill a Mockingbird, I don’t think anyone can argue that her editor misled her about how to make a great story.
The differences between the stories emphasize how much our plans can change and adapt if we let them. As well as how much we don’t have to get things right or perfect—or even close—on our first draft. *smile*
Blogiversary Contest Winners
And now, the part you’ve all really been waiting for… Here are the winners of my Fifth Annual Blogiversary Contest:
And call me a softy, but we were so close to adding another winner that I went ahead and picked a bonus winner too. I wish random.org would have let me pick you all. *smile*
Bonus Winner: Glynis Jolly
Congratulations to you all! You should receive an email from me within the next day, so start thinking about what prize you want.
Did you have a favorite of the guest posts I ran? Are you a pantser or a plotter in real life? Why does that work better for you? Are there any aspects of that approach that don’t work for you? Have you ever significantly changed a story from draft to final? What do you think about the Go Set a Watchman controversy?Pin It