I’m a planner. I love to plan stuff. When I travel, I plan EVERYTHING. I’m not kidding when I say “everything.” I don’t make up schedules. I hate schedules. But I try very hard to avoid unpleasant surprises. That’s why I Googled images of restrooms on Amtrak trains before my trip to Orlando a couple years ago.
(Yes, they exist–in fact, I found a remarkable variety of photos of Amtrak–and other train–restrooms on Flickr. The Amtrak restrooms turned out to be neither as nice as I’d hoped nor as bad as I’d feared.)
I like to plan where I’m going to eat. I even like to plan what I’m going to order from the menu. (It was a happy day when I discovered Menupages.com.) I’ll pour over candid photos of hotel rooms before I book one. I look over bus and subway maps a million times so I can avoid getting lost. (This rarely works–I still get lost.)
Of course, when you travel, plans often go awry. During one trip to New York, I was crossing the street on my way to 30 Rockefeller Center to ascend to the observation deck at the Top Of The Rock. I tripped and aggravated a heel spur. Limping in terrible pain, I made it to a bench and cried, convinced my trip was ruined.
A few hours later, after spending some time stepping on a bag of ice in my hotel room, I was on my way to a completely unplanned destination–The Museum Of Television And Radio (now the Paley Center For Media), so I could spend a few hours doing something while still resting my foot. The rest of the day went as planned–met a friend for dinner, went to an Off-Broadway show. It turned out to be a great day, after all.
I think writing is a lot like that. Some things go as planned, and some things end up going in a totally different direction.
I rarely write outlines. But I do plan a lot before I sit down to write. What I may do is write a short synopsis with key plot points, but I don’t even do that very often. I keep most of what I plan in my head, which is probably not the best place for it, but that’s my process.
With my latest completed work, a comical fractured fairy tale, the story had been percolating in my head for a long time. I had a really good grasp of how the story would enfold before I sat down to write it.
But then a funny thing happened. Every time I tried to write a scene of the hero and heroine kissing, the heroine refused to do it.
This was problematic, as I was hoping to sell it to a romance publisher. If I couldn’t get the heroine to even kiss the hero, my chances were going to be slim to none.
I left the scene as it was and charged ahead, thinking I would write it later in the story.
She refused to kiss him again.
It drove me nuts! “You have to kiss the hero!” I screamed at the computer screen.
She just wouldn’t do it.
I actually began to wonder if I had cast the wrong character as the hero, and if I should scrap what I’d written and start again. But I kept charging ahead, with most of the rest of the story staying as originally planned.
It finally dawned on me why I had to make the kiss very late in the story. It was a fractured fairy tale, but still a fairy tale. Kisses–especially the first kiss between the hero and heroine–are incredibly important in fairy tales. I finally hit on the perfect juncture in the story for the characters to kiss.
When I found that sweet spot in the story, the heroine finally kissed the hero.
I think however you write, you’re pantsing to a certain extent. In the planning stage, I envision scenes and let them run through my head, going wherever they take me, in total “pantsing” mode. No matter how much a plan beforehand, I almost always hit a place where I will have to “pants” on the spot.
Maybe there’s a little bit of planner and pantser in all of us.