Pictures tell stories. Do you tell stories with them? While I speak most of my tales via words, I love taking photos. Figured what's a blog for. Right?
Twelve Years Ago...
My first solo signing for Body Parts, my debut novel. My hand clenches the curtain.
“I can’t do this,” I say to Bill.
He smiles that slow, easy smile of his. His eyes are warm, assured. “Sure you can.”
“No, I can’t.”
“How come?” he says.
Q: So, Vicki, why did you write what you call an Urban Fantasy Romance?
Me: I already blogged about that.
Q: You’re a little snarky today.
Me: Maybe. Okay, yeah, I am. My forehead’s bloody—the wall I slammed into working on Chest of Air hurt.
Q: Poor thing. So let’s talk about your childhood.
Me: That should put everyone to sleep.
Q: What books did you love as a kid? You know, ones that influenced your writing.
Me: Ah, now there’s something I can dig my fangs into.
Q: Clears throat. Back away. Runs.
Me: Silly girl. They’re only virtual… mostly.
Books. (I sigh.) They take you anywhere and anywhen. Reveal anything you wish. Feel anything you want. Come ride the dragon into the past with me.
“Mom, c’mon!” Blake says.
“But do you see?” I say. “I just have to go meet him!”
“Mom.” Ben sighs, looks at his brother, rolls his eyes.
by Vicki Stiefel
I’m driving my words along for miles and miles, and out of the darkness, a deer leaps into my headlights. Yeah, that happens sometimes. The deer might be a huge, horned buck—brake, brake! Or, perhaps it’s a small fawn, all cute and sweet, that toddles onto my highway. No matter the size, I grip the wheel. Hard.
See, when I write, I follow those headlights. I use scenes, rather than chapters. I have big plans, a “sort of" map in my head, and a definite destination as I tap the keys on a book. But there’s that damned deer jumping right in front of me.
Today’s misadventure: I was merrily on my way to the Guadalupe mountains in Texas, zooming across desert highway, pounding the keys like a woman on a mission. I knew exactly where I was going—to those damned mountains and I would get there today.
And the deer appeared—a majestic doe, full grown. I jerked to a stop. Didn't want to run over the poor critter. And the next thing I knew, I was hooking a left—what!—and driving onto a far bumpier road, headed for… Now where the hell was I going?
That’s my process when writing my novels. (It was Tony Hillerman's, too. He told me so. Reassured me that I wasn't batso.) My first draft goes like this—crazy and chaotic, starts and stops, sputters and varooms. And side roads. Plenty of those. But, and this is essential, those side roads:
• Must advance the plot.
• Must end with more problems for the POV character.
• Must deepen character.
• Must be meaningful.
What if they don’t? When I’m editing, I toss ‘em out. That hurts! Or, if fixable, I do that. A pain in the neck and a lot of added work. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
In current fiction-writing lingo, I’m a pantster. Pansters have to edit the heck out of that first draft, since its often a hot mess. Continuity matters, as does rhythm and voice and a host of other things that can derail a story.
So why not outline? Plot out my story? Draw a map?
Oh, I’d love to be able to do any one of those. All the major scenes and elements skeletoned out. I wouldn’t have to be anxious ninety percent of the time. Nor would I fear that “what’s next?” blankness. But for me, the fun (and agony) of writing is in the journey. The exploration. The un-knowingness. Plotting is too spoilery for me. Plus, desperate to lose that anxiety and fear, I’ve tried it. I got bored.
So for me, it’s not a choice. I react to that deer in the headlights every single time. How about you?
What are you? A Pantster? A Plotter? Or something in-between?