Thursday, March 31, 2011

Please Welcome Guest Blogger S. E. Holden

A Converted Pantser by S.E. Holden

Hi, my name is Scott, and a month ago I was a pantser. I wrote by the seat of my pants. Now I don't mean that I sat on the keyboard and whatever keys my two cheeks happened to squash at any given moment turned into a story. I mean that with only a germ of a story idea, I sat down at the computer and let the story unfold. I'm fairly new to this writing for publication thing so I thought this was the style that worked for me and it did. It was great. It was fun. It got me published.                   I managed to pants my way through three short stories and started working on my novel, but that's where I hit a snag.
For me, writing without a definitive plan worked on the smaller scale. In a short story, the plot, by necessity, needed to be relatively small and achievable within around fifteen thousand words. It was fairly easy for me to conceive of the few twists and turns needed to bring the story to life in my head.  Like in The Hunt for Red October, when the Russian sub driver tells the diving officer that given a stopwatch and a map he could fly the alps in a plane with no windows. I think of writing from the seat of your pants in the same way. Give me a basic idea and some cool characters and I'll write a kick-ass short story without using a plot chart or an outline.
But as I mentioned before, I tried this same approach for my first novel. I developed cool characters and a super neat-o keen idea (I may be a bit biased on this). I knew where I wanted the story to start and how I wanted it to end; therefore, based on my formula for success in the shorts, I was ready to go. I wrote the first chapter and things were going really well. I wrote the second chapter, which turned out to be a little harder than the first, but still rockin' and moving forward. Then I got to the third and hit a wall. I knew where I wanted the story to end, but after three chapters I wasn't ready to end it. I mean, geez, this was supposed to be a novel, not a supped up short story. What am I going to put in between the exciting beginning and earth-shattering ending? My characters shrugged their digital shoulders at me when I asked them what was next. So…I rewrote the first two chapters. I edited the first two chapters. I thought about rewriting them again then I realized I needed some serious help.
One of my favorite fantast writers, David Farland, is also an uber creative writing teacher. He's taught at the collegiate and professional levels. Well, he was giving one of his last outline classes before locking himself away to write the screenplay for his best-selling Runelords series. The timing was perfect and I jumped in. Thank goodness I did. The class opened my eyes to the possibilities of actually planning out your story/novella/novel before you actually write it. What a concept!
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I took some creative writing courses in college. Time is a harsh mistress and I forgot some of the basics to good story telling that are essential to building a great novel. The class refreshed those concepts for me and unloaded many, many, many new ways to look at the entire story concept from setting to character to plot. On the cool side, I did get some validation on the basics that I was naturally including like building three dimensional characters and the importance of the right setting so I didn't feel like a total schmoe. But, more important than my tiny ego boost, was that I got the direction I needed. From the basic plot line, to try/fail cycles, to inciting incidents, to time bombs and crucibles and the hourglass of evil, I was able to push past my wall. By the end of the week-long workshop I had documented, scene by scene, 90% of my plot. I know where the story needs to go and my characters are going to be sorry they ever dissed me before.< Insert writer's maniacal laughter here.>  
The moral of this story is that if you find yourself stuck and struggling, find the help you need. It might be as simple as some online brainstorming with a friend or group of friends. Or maybe you just need someone to read over your work and offer some constructive criticism. Maybe you need something more structured like an online workshop or class. For me, I needed a quest to find my plot, which took me from sunny Florida to surprisingly sunny St. George, Utah. Not only did I find that plot, but I brought home a host of new writing tools and techniques. Good luck on your own writing journeys.   

S.E. Holden Bio
Since he was a kid, S.E. Holden wanted to be an author and explored many genres through high school and college. After greasing the gears of the corporate machine for many years, he escaped the Information Technology vortex to focus full-time on his writing dream. A romantic at heart, S.E. loves to write about committed couples struggling with and overcoming life's obstacles only to emerge stronger. The fact that they have steamy, mind-blowing sex along the way makes it even better.
S.E. lives with his wife and two children on the west coast of Florida.

S.E.'s Contact Links:
Twitter: @seholden25

Back on Track Blurb
Julie and Ray, a young couple, trying to bring some semblance of normalcy back to their lives after the birth of their son, are finding it exceedingly difficult. And while Jayden is the type of child young parents dream about, his arrival has created a potentially devastating rift between his parents. Will their love and commitment to each other be strong enough to bridge that gap and get their intimacy back on track?

Back on Track Excerpt
"Turn it off? Turn what off?" Julie exhaled loudly, her hands settling on her hips. Realization hardened her expression and added a cold, crispness to her tone. "I thought we were past this, Ray."
"Maybe you were past it, but seeing him reminds me of…everything. I can’t go from devoted dad to loving husband to hot lover that quickly." Shoulders slumped in defeat, the words caught in Ray’s throat as he fought back his frustrated growl. "I’m sorry. I know that’s what you want, but I can’t help it, Jules. I’m trying." 
"We went through all this in counseling months ago, Ray, remember?" Voice softening, she wrapped her arms around him. "We are allowed to be a couple too, not just parents. In fact, Dr. Richards said we needed to be a couple." With a tender yet firm grasp, she cupped his face and pulled him down for a kiss. It started sweet, an innocent press of soft lips, but intensified as he relaxed into her. She pressed her body tight against his; her full, round breasts crushed eagerly, desperately against his muscular form. 
On autopilot, his tongue slid out to meet hers for a quick caress before he pushed her gently away. "I’m sorry. I’m not in the mood." He turned and walked down the hall. "I’m going to get on the computer for a while. Don’t wait up." He imagined her face, expression rife with disappointment and confusion, tracking him to the door. He didn’t dare look.
"I thought I had you this time." 

Back on Track Buy Links

Thank you so much S. E. Holden for joining us on NN. It was a joy to have you.



Nikki said...

Sold! I just went to Amazon to buy this book! Great price, too!

I am attempting to be converted from a panster to a plotter. Not easy. Once you know one way for most of your life, it's hard to change it. LOL. I've heard of David Farland's creative writing courses. My husband reads Farland's books.

S.E. Holden said...

Hey Nikki,
Thanks for buying Back on Track. I hope you love it. Farland's class was amazing. I took the Million Dollar Outline workshop. There were a total of eleven other writers in the class so the creativity and ideas were coming fast and furious. I highly recommend his workshops and his fantasy. Runelords was one of the most original series I've read and I've been an avid fantasy reader forever. Thanks again.

Lila Barton said...

Scott -

Great post. I am also a reformed pantster. After abandoning no less than a dozen projects 1/2 to 3/4 of the way through, I investigated a number of plotting methods and finally made it all the way through a novella that I'm pretty damned happy with and plan to start submitting soon. Definitely have to check out Farland. I'm personal a huge fan of Goal, Motivation and Conflict plotting and "Save the Cat".


S.E. Holden said...

Hey Lila,
Congrats on making it through your novella and good luck. Now that you know you can do it, the next one will be that much easier. Keep at it.

Sheri Fredricks said...

It's always interesting to hear the journey of a reformed pantser. Plotters can be partial pantsers, depending upon how indepth their outline is. When skid marks hit my muse, I always go back to my outline and work my way through the scene. And it works for me. Enjoyed your post, Scott!!