Thursday, July 6, 2017

Creative Writing Bootcamp Plan

This Saturday, I teach my first CREATIVE WRITING BOOTCAMP for the University of Utah Lifelong Learning Center. It’s a class that’s being taught by several instructors and is very popular. In planning my lessons I landed upon a fundamental philosophical problem in creative writing and thought to exploit it.

The world of writing is separated into two camps: Pantsters and Plotters. It's a reference to how an author approaches their writing. Plotters tend to outline their work first, have the ending in mind, organize. Pantsers “fly by the seat of their pants” and go where the muse leads them. There’s a long-standing feud between the two camps and it often gets bloody (see the famous Merriman City Authors massacre 1977).

I think every author is a little bit of both and there are advantages and disadvantages to each. I’ve called myself a plotter for most of my career because I think it’s the better side to be on. Generally speaking, a plotter is more productive. They can pick up where they left off more easily and have a plan that enables them to finish books. I’ve talked to sworn pantsers who’ve turned to plotting once their careers put them in the hot seat for deadlines. It’s a good way to go.

I still plot for the most part, but lately it’s been a really loose plot. I call it "waypoint writing." I have a list of things I want to accomplish in each book, each chapter and scene, and write to that. It’s a moving target. Sometimes I can’t get what I want to say into a chapter so I have to write another. Sometimes something new and amazing happens and I have to rework later scenes to accommodate. It’s a pantser inside the plot. I always have goals, themes and ideas in lists and maps, and I navigate the ocean between my points by these stars. It works for me.

Certain works demand more or less plotting. Mysteries require extensive thought beforehand if I want to play fair. Character studies can go where they will so long as I don’t loose the thread (see: Write as Fast as You Can). In truth. My most creative moments come from deep pantsting, I won’t lie. When I’m off the grid and letting the muse take over, some absolutely wonderful things happen. However I can’t count on her coming to each session. She seems to have other interests, music probably, so I’m often left to my own devices. That’s why I plot as I do.

I think a lot about these two approaches and notice myself switching sides here and there, leaning more this way or that. I teach plotting mostly, because it can be taught, but I am well aware that art comes from flying and not running on tracks. I struggle with it myself and have learned the hard way never to over-plot.

I will take this struggle of mine, this battle of writing styles, into my class. The first week of my class, we’ll pants the hell out of it (kinda). The second week we’ll plot the snot out of it (kinda sorta). And during the entire class, we’ll talk about how it all works and debate and discuss and come to an understanding if not a decision on what works best for us. At this moment. For this project. During this phase of moon. Sorta. That’s the plan anyway. We’ll see what actually happens.

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