Planners, Pantsters, and Thinksters
9 November 2016
Two new writers (John King and Amy … ) have joined our writers’ group (Chuck Bowie, Kevin Stephens, John Sutherland, and Roger Moore) and now we are six (with apologies to Winnie the Pooh). In addition, we have a virtual member (Allan Hudson) and a potential member (Victor Hendricken). Amy has joined on a first name basis. Alas, there were only four of us last night: Amy, John K, Kevin and Roger; Chuck and John S were both indisposed. We wish them good health.
This leads me to the question: what is the best way to integrate new members into an already established group of writers? I have no answer. Last night’s activities seemed quite successful. First we introduced ourselves, first names only (oh dear!) and then we invited Amy to tell us about her writing. What an adventure. She has completed one novel, 110,000 words, and has two more planned in the series. She is questioning her opening chapter: is it the right one or should she begin after chapter three? Without having read the work, I personally find it difficult to give advice.
We explored some of the themes Amy presented to us and discussed a series of images that recurred and seemed to link the novel together. The idea of iterative thematic imagery serving as a leitmotiv came forward and we analyzed how repeated images can tie a novel (or a poem, or a short story) together. We spent some time on triggers that motivate actions and reactions from the characters. What is the trigger or the hook that draws the readers in, makes them look to the future, and persuades them to want to continue finding out more about the characters?
We also discussed Kevin’s favorite topic: planners and pantsters. Kevin is a planner who works everything out in advance. His charts, photos, character guides, outlines, and plans are an exemplary work of art in themselves and are highly admired by the group members. Many writers are pantsters; that means to say they pick up their pens or sit by their key-boards and write by instinct and fly by the seat of the pants. I find myself in between these two extremes, for, like Fray Luis de León and Juan de Valdés long before me, I think most of my writing out and keep it in my head until it comes time to put it down on the page. Perhaps this makes me a thinkster; I would like to think it did.
We also discussed the importance of The First Five Pages (Noah Lukeman’s book, sub-titled: a writer’s guide to staying out of the rejection pile). We invited Amy to send us her first five pages for an online critique. Our next step will be to look at the first five pages of the chapter with which she is proposing to start. It was an exciting conversation. I hope it was not a scary one for Amy’s first time out.
John K has been to one of our previous meetings, plus we had a long series of discussions with him at the WFNB meetings last weekend in Shediac. He and I helped close the hotel bar in Shediac at 1:30 am, so we are very proud of our efforts there. He presented us with the outline of a ‘tale’ that he is developing. Good man: he writes with a pen in a notebook, jotting down his ideas as they come to him and elaborating them in pen and ink, just as I do. Kevin and Amy had their tablets and their computers while John K and I had our pens and notebooks.
Without going into the details of his story and giving anything away, he walked us through the tale as he has it at present. he has great ideas, but at present is in search of a format in which to present his ‘tale’. Is it a short story? Too long and too many episodes. A novella? Could be. A full length novel? We didn’t see why not, and more and more potential episodes suggested themselves as we went along. In many ways it sounded like a film or a televisions series and John K’s active photographic mind, he has done courses in film and script writing, painted an engaging series of linked pictures, all of them with great potential. We are hoping that John K will send us an outline sketch, maybe even a storyboard, of what he is planning. Perhaps we should also ask Amy for a chapter plan, or would that be too ambitious?
As for Kevin and I, we joined in the conversation, presented commentaries and ideas, outlined some of our own plans and directions, and had a thoroughly enjoyable time. Kevin’s book DiAngelo will be released on 22 February 2017. He is at the final editing stage right now and is busy, busy, busy with the final version of the text. We are all excited for him and are pushing him to keep at it and get the first novel of his planned five novel series out, and up, and running. He is also planning a series of pre-release advertisements scenarios, all of which are sure to catch the eye of potential readers.
And that may well be the topic for another day: how do we market our books and what is the best way to attract readers?