Okay, I admit it. I’m a pantser. I’ve tried—I really have—to come over to the logical side of the novel plotting track. But I just can’t do it. The very thought of outlining my plot is like planning to spike my muse’s after dinner drink with hemlock.
I will never be a plotter. An outline, to me, is a medieval straitjacket. Complete with all the steel shackles and chains you might remember from the likes of Fifty Shades of Grey.
But without all the . . . thrills? Ahem. I digress . . .
I wish I could be a plotter. It would save me from the disappointment, the heartbreak of those promising, though illusive, brilliant beginnings. Those glowing, awe-inspired, first twenty-thousand words. The ones that fall flat, wither, and die way before their time. Those times when I find myself, like the pre- (and post-) neurosurgery laboratory mouse, Algernon. Facing a blank wall, with no way out, and no impetus to even try to find another path to freedom.
No, I’m the kind of writer who’s faced with the conundrum of being at the mercy of the muse’s fancy. I write when she (or he . . . wouldn’t want to be sexist here) is “in the mood.” Although I struggle to maintain a regular writing schedule—a designated target word count for every day—it doesn’t always pan out. Sometimes, the muse flips me the bird, lifts her glass of Pinot Grigio in my direction, and turns away, sauntering into the creative mist.
She’s a persnickety bitch.
But oh, when she’s on, baby, she’s on.
I find myself hesitating, timidly, to open my work-in-progress every day, wondering what I will find. Will I be totally unimpressed, encouraged, or horrified by what I wrote in those last few paragraphs? Might those words somehow spark to life a story whose trajectory I’m not quite sure of? Or, worse yet, will the characters just stand there, staring at me with a blank expression, saying, “What? What’s next? Where do we go from here? And, (more importantly), why should we (or your readers) even care?”
It’s a daily struggle. But one that I have no choice but to challenge. Every . . . single . . . day. An addiction, like any addiction. One that makes me feel good—sometimes. But other times, its torment is nothing short of emotional hell.
Once in a while, lightning strikes. The planets align. The story elements all start linking together like pieces of some celestial puzzle. I know what to do then. I lift my hands off the wheel (but not off the keyboard)—me, the control freak queen—and I let go. I just let it flow. The characters hijack the page and don’t even look back as they surge on to their futures, leaving me behind, coughing on the dust they leave hanging in their wake.
It’s like being aboard a runaway train. So, what else can I do?
The story’s yours now, gang. Dang, it always has been. I’ll step back. You’re in charge. I’m okay. You just take it from here.
It’s exhilarating, and it’s frustrating. Part of me screams, “I’m the author, damn it! I should be the one in control here!” Yet I feel like I’m not contributing anything at all.
Well, I do help a little. I take notes. It’s a good thing I can type so fast.
Claire Gem is an award winning author of contemporary romance, women’s fiction, & supernatural suspense. Her debut supernatural novel, Phantom Traces, is available through Soul Mate Publishing. Check our her other titles at her Website or Amazon Author Page.