spark

Romancing the Words: The Outlining Pantser

Book-And-Love-Photos-1600x1026The romance of being a pantser is alluring. The lustful sense in the writer’s mind to pantser is one that draws us to sit down and start writing. Go where the imagination goes. Throw caution to the wind! As adventurous and sexy as this sounds I’m here to tell you something Dr. Ruth once told my generation: have protection! That protection doesn’t come in the form of a pill or latex sleeve, but in the form of an outline.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an advocate of one over the other. We all have our own method, and choose what works best; it’s a personal choice. I’m sure all of us, outliner or not, have at one point or another found ourselves with a story-spark that requires some panster power to get it down. We sit. We write. We find ourselves 500 words along and the story keeps coming, and it feels like a release of imaginative tension. When you’re done, you might light a smoke, have a glass of wine or just catch your breath from the best write ever. But depending on the depth of your piece, the size of it (does size matter?) you may find yourself with a story that’s thundering with loose ends. That’s when wearing an outliner’s rain coat will protect you, but if you feel comfortable in the storm then pantser away.storms

You’re probably wondering what method I use when I write. I have to admit, I love to be a pantser but I’ve found a good outline helps to keep my wild-side in check, so I enlist both methods. Here’s how I do it: Pantser that story-spark. Sweat and moan that idea into the best story synopsis you ever wrote – best write ever! Then take that synopsis and whip it with an outline. Now you’re ready to spend some quality time romancing your words. Love your story, and you’ll see the prose mature with depth and meaningful arc. Now for the fun. Between the points of your outline get naked and pantser between the sheets, of paper. That’s right, connect the dots of your outline points by drafting your story in panster mode. I get the best of both worlds as an outlining panster.

I find outlining helps nurture a good working relationship with my pantser self. Ultimately each of us chooses our own path, we learn by doing, and through this we discover our own rhythmic method to writing.

What method do you prefer? How do you do it? Do you stick with one method over the other or blend?

10 Writing Tips for Aspiring Authors from HarperCollins Canada Editors!

From the horse’s mouth! A great post for aspiring authors, dig in and eat it up!

At the beginning of the year, we asked some of our fellow Savvy Readers what their New Year’s resolutions were. In addition to reading more, many of you said that you’d like to focus on writing in 2014. As the halfway point of the year approaches, we want to motivate you to work towards your goal… and asked 10 editors from HarperCollins Canada to help! Below, professional editors (whose expertise range from Cookbooks to Fiction, Non-fiction to Children’s Books) share their #1 piece of advice.

Read on, because regardless of whether you write for pleasure or are an aspiring author, I’m sure you can find something helpful from the tips below.

1. Read! 

“Read, read widely and read for your enjoyment. Read outside of your usual genres, read books on the bestseller list and talk about the books you love.”

—Brad Wilson, Editorial Director (Collins).

2. Don’t Focus On Your Ending

“In fiction, there is a temptation to write…

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Nano Fiction: Prisoner

The Ontario Writers Conference hosts a monthly blog called Story Starters. It’s 100 words or less and is reflective of the posted artwork. I label 300 words or less as Nano Fiction. Here’s my story “Prisoner” as inspired by Joanna Malcolm’s posted artwork.TwoPointsofViewL

Prisoner

By Darryl Foster

The scent of brine and the essence of freedom sail in through my window. I love to watch the sea, listen to the crash of waves and pretend to feel sand between my toes, but I will not venture out there. The burden in my soul is the weight of my own ship’s anchor, a fear that I carry and can not control. It keeps me here in this tortuous mind, a prisoner, a function of dysfunction, and although I feel my spirit is locked away, it’s my ghost that yearns for freedom beyond this body, my prison without walls.

Writer Health: A Sitting-Society

First of all, credit where credit is due: thank you to ASAP Science for a vital (signs) reminder! And thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for retweeting this topic, one all writers should take to heart, literally. Puns aside: watch the video from ASAP Science then commit to changing your life with a fitness plan. Do it for you, and for your love of writing.

So, we’ve become a Sitting-Society. Most of us hold down full time jobs at a desk and add more hours to the time we sit by plopping down in front of our writing desks. My survival instinct tells me it’s time for a change. A healthy life will extend your years and the time you have to sow your prose.

I find, during and after, a good 30 minute workout in the gym, my blood is pumping and there’s a surge of energy coursing through my veins that leaves me feeling energized all day. Activity invigorates the mind and creates an emotional bond between your spirit and physical being. For me, that bond translates into discovering my best writing ideas when I’m engaged in exercise. When you workout your body, your gray matter benefits, so does your writing. Exercise is up-time, an opportunity to visualize and plan your writing while staying fit. Developing scenes and story in your mind while sweating on an elliptical machine will keep you on a healthy plot-track, stimulating imagination and motivating your writing.

I encourage you to find 30 minutes a day to exercise. Take the ‘write’ steps now, get up and walk away from the Sitting-Society.

Darryl Foster

When the Story Spark Ignites

Explosion of planet or starI finished outlining a new novel, while editing the novel I need to finish. I’m convinced my ability to multi-task projects is born from my wavering attention span, and being hyper about any new idea that crosses my mind. But this time it feels different, and my attention is unwavering.

I’m sure some or all of us (including myself) believe our unique story sparks will burst forth the next big book deal: an international book tour, signings in every city, a publisher with a marketing engine that never sleeps, and of course the movie premieres next week (sounds lovely). Whether that happens or not, the story and writing process has to start with a spark.

So you pull out your mind-flint and strike your metal pen against your gray matter to make a story spark. Most times the story is easy to create: a news article catches your attention, an idea presents itself, an unlikely experience happens to you. How ever the spark comes, you eventually find the story you want to write. You were seeking the story, and found it. But perhaps what you found doesn’t gel? The story matter doesn’t seem to flow, and you find yourself backfilling the plot with regurgitated story-stuff that buries you in nothing but burden. The three act structure has become the ten act flop. If the story has become a labour of love, then likely the passion to write it is just as labourious. The spark has died.

But not all stories are prone to snuff-out. There are stories that kindle, and the story spark ignites into a supernova of imagination. The story explodes in your head and writes itself. I like to think of it as finding love when you’re not looking for it. You know that feeling of surprise, awe and amazement when you find someone so wonderful. Love at first sight? There’s an energy in those moments, and although we try to put a finger on it, it’s not anything we can grasp; it’s wild and wants to be free. This type of story spark is something you can’t control. When that happens the story will write itself, twisting effortlessly around the plot like a helix: forming scenes, chapters and acts, seemingly at will. This story spark has a life of its own and ignites passion in the writer. It becomes a raging inferno, St. Elmo’s fire, crackling with characters, burning with emotion and radiating with meaningful elements. This story will speak to you. It knows how it wants to be written. It will have passion and purpose. This is the story that’s in you to write.

In my infinite wisdom (which really tries hard to break out of my skull) I found myself trying to simplify what I’m talking about in as few words as possible, and perhaps someone else has coined the quote, but here’s my two cents:

“The writer doesn’t find the story one yearns to write ~ rather ~ the story finds the writer and yearns to be written.”

I believe story sparks are alive in all of us, and the right one will burn brighter in your mind-sky than all of them. That’s your story, move toward it, fuel its fire, and bring it to life.

Darryl Foster