Oct 18, 2016

Pantsers turn into Plotters

It's October!

Which means NaNoWriMo is heavy in my mind. My region has done a couple prep workshops, but something that came up in discussions stayed with me - that pantsers eventually turn into plotters.

I found the concept strange.

One does not simply become a plotter

Personally, I've never used the term pantser to describe myself. I like "discovery writer". Often I do have a loose outline in my head, but it shifts and changes as I develop my worlds while writing. I'm not flying clueless, but I might have done all my training in a 4-person aircraft and have suddenly been placed in the cockpit of a 747. I do a lot of inference and rely on common sense/similar enough experiences. 

And then I realized that this year? I outlined my story. Three pages of my notebook are full of plotted out bullet points . Two pages are filled with history, world, and just-before-event  notes that influence the plot. My writing history tells me at least a third of my plot points will shift and my perchance to "discover" while writing means this story will be close to 50K instead of the 30K I want. It doesn't change things. Somehow, I turned into a plotter.

Strangely, I feel disappointed in myself. I liked saying I developed things as I went. I liked the thrill of discovery, of entering NaNo not knowing what the outcome would be. Of channeling characters to learn the ending at the same time they did.

woman writing in a notebook on the grass
But as my ML and our workshop leader expounded upon, this is natural. Moving from pantser to plotter happens to us all as we gain experience in plotting, character building, story structure, and all the mechanics of writing. Beethoven was said to be able to write a sympathy on on his deathbed, but that's because he had years of experience in creating them to build off of.

Writing is the same, my ML said. Plotters have simply internalized the process and know what do before pantsers. Pantsers, once they understand how to get a story out and the elements it might need, do all that work in their head before they start. They might not physically write an outline, but they have a plotter zone. Mentally, they are plotters.

As I mentioned before, my own style has shifted. My outlines have gone from "what if" mind bubbles to detailed play-by-plays (and in the case of one WIP, I had a story outline but got stuck on a chapter, so plotted that out. Chapter 7 has more bullet points than the first half of this novel. *rolls eyes*).

I want to know if other writers experienced the same. As the years went by, did you pantsers turn into plotters?
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Sep 21, 2016

Ok Google and Siri

Google speech-to-text logoI like talking to my phone, specifically using voice to text software.

While driving, I can speak a text to my sister and Google will have it (most times) word for word correct - punctuation aside. When I just finished reading a story on my phone, and don't want to review it on my dinky keyboard, I can say it out loud and then add the periods. Picking out my clothes in the morning, I ask my phone about the weather and it tells me it while I'm moving hangers.

Recently, I started getting back into using DuoLingo - a foreign language teaching app. Some of the exercises include saying phrases out loud to your microphone and the app checks your pronunciation. I'm not learning Spanish from scratch - I studied it in high school and uni - and I've had teachers from different areas. My accent is a bit mixed.

So sometimes it's frustrating when the app thinks I said something wrong when I know I didn't. The fix is to usually slow down my speech and really enunciate, speaking clearly and struggling to really pronounce my 't's.

(Here in the Midwest, our "ts" often sound like "ds". I remember talking to a foreigner about a waterfall, and he had to stop me to ask what 'wader' was.)

tap to speak on Samsung Galaxy phone
Yes, Google capitalizes first letters.
Once I noticed it with the DuoLingo, I became aware of all my speech interactions with JARVIS. I use the same adjustments to my speech, though less extreme, when talking out texts.

Personally, I think this is fascinating. I'm changing my speech pattern for my phone. I speak slowly. I make sure to distinguish between sounds. I pause longer between sentences, to break up 'phrases' as google understands them. Sometimes, I even change my vocabulary to avoid longer words I think my phone will have problems with.

Deep into my edits of Stars, and the prevalence of computers in this story, I can't help but wonder if, as we talk to computers more and more, human speech patterns evolve to make those conversations easier to comprehend. And what those changes are.

A reduction in vocabulary? More small word phrases? A loss of rambling? Slower conversations? Will we speak punctuation marks? "Are we still on today - question mark - tell me by noon - full stop"

I'm curious - do you guys do this too? Notice and change your language as you interact with technology? If so, what? 

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Sep 18, 2016

Lady of the Lake

I'm on a King Arthur kick - have been for awhile actually (I totally blame the BBC show Merlin) - and so downloaded Lady of the Lake by Walter C. Scott via Google Books.

I couldn't finish it and I blamed my phone. With my font settings, I couldn't fit a full verse on my screen and that's just no way to read epic, romantic poetry.

So I borrowed it from the library and gave it another whirl, cuz I really wanted to get to the part about Avalon.

Cover and first page of Sir Walter Scott's romantic poem The Lady of the Lake.

I realized several things sitting on the Metra, reading this.

1) It is easier to read poetry on paper. I went through it faster, and the little notes in the back were super helpful.

2) This is not, actually, about The Lady of the Lake of Avalon from Arthurian legends. It's based on historical events in the Scottish highlands and the 'lady' is a exiled noble-sorta-person whose hand is up for grabs.

3) Epic poetry is super, super hard to both read and understand. I'd read a line, be confused, and have to go back and read the previous verse. I would read, but not comprehend, and did a lot of rereading. Also, archaic language. The whole process of reading was very different from a fiction book - it wasn't a fun ride, it was an active reading experience similar to reading magazine articles about trends in my profession. 

Number 3 is the main reason I stopped reading this - for a second time. Determined to at least 'finish' it, I tried to find a novelized version to pick up (there isn't one????) and then visited Wikipedia. Where I learned that I didn't just miss small things, I had a wrong understanding of who characters were and the plot.  

It makes me ashamed as a reader, but also reinforced the idea it was good I stopped. 

How many of you have completely misunderstood poetry?
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Sep 4, 2016

Best Read of August - Jennifer Government

August was a rare, fast reading month for me. Probably cuz my two week road trip consisted of audiobooks and a laptop that quit on me Day 3 so I reached for the books more often. I still think my sister's copy of Queen of Darkness has a few grains of sand between pages.

My fave last month however was Jennifer Government by Max Barry.

Taking place in a much future world, where the world is essentially ruled by corporations, a Nike employee gets duped into a contract to kill a few kids as they walk out of the store to build up a new shoe's street cred. The poor guy gets tangled up in something much bigger when he outsources the job to the police and then Jennifer Government comes rushing in hoping to pin the crime on the VP who came up with the plan.

This book is incredibly complex. There are six characters to follow, all with their own very unique, very developed story lines and they weave between each other so well. And the book is so snarky in how it critiques modern society - this is definitely a satire on how both the government and corporations work.

What I really liked was watching some characters grow while other stay the same. We see writing advice on character development all the time, but seeing a set of characters whose movement was lateral instead of up or down was fascinating to me. Especially as I love how their arcs ended the most.

This book had me rolling my eyes and really interested in the world (last names are the company you work for, 'non-USA' countries and 'USA countries'). A good read if you want something light-hearted and quick.
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Aug 28, 2016


This week, I have found a crowd I never thought of before but immediately felt welcomed by.

Public transit commuters.

We sit on trains and crack open books. We leave the station and walk fast, weaving between people and jockeying to be on the curb edge. Our outfits are cute, we are going to the office, but practical. Nothing tight. Lots of flats. Backpacks. My favorite was a woman in a loose pencil skirt with brightly colored gym shoes. We don't block traffic.

It all reminds me of how much I disliked tourists in San Francisco, because these people are so not like them it's amazing. And the few I run into on Michigan Ave. Move people. Open your maps in doorways or against the window of a store.

In other words, despite my new 1hr long commute, I'm not minding at all.

Except when I miss my train cuz of drinks with co-workers.

I like to walk along the river from train station to work.

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