Innards of An Erratic Writer #7

I know, it’s too soon for this Erratic Writer stuff or a new blog post, but whatevs. The past few days were stressful that it affected a lot of aspects of my life. It was also fun, exciting, and fever-inducing – but not invigorating, sad to say.

I have, much to my dismay, shelved all my current works-in-progress, and started writing on yet another new project. Something I think is cool, fun, and maybe hip, something inspired by Daft Punk, Dream Theater, Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man and Batman and Man of Steel OSTs. Something that had to do with music. So, I typed away, not caring the fuck what came off from it. And 8k words later, I’m pleased with this new shit. I’m not saying my previous WIPs aren’t cool, fun, or maybe hip for me, but this one is, somewhat different from everything else I’ve written so far. Not really sure how to five-second pitch it, but I’ll get there, with a lot of prayers and hope.

Which kind of brings me to my main topic. Outlining versus Pantsing. I’ve known a couple of writers who decide to just go with the flow or spend countless time in using index cards, post its, even diagrams, and a ton more other things. The thing is, I’ve done both, and my heart finally rested in between the two.

For an uber quick summary of the two. Outlining is where you plan ahead of time the plot of your story. Pantsing, in Writing Excuses‘s explanation, is discovery writing. You just write, and see for yourself how things turn out. The latter of the two is as fun as setting out to your first adventure to find hidden treasures or damsels in distress.

I have a friend who did extensive outlines and gargantuan world building (well, not really) and he never got a single word of it down on paper. Guess it’s as addictive as air after almost drowning. Dive too deep and you might end up floating like a bloated carcass. Keep your pants ball-crushing tight, and there’s a good chance to get smacked into a dead end.

In my own experience. I did massive world building for Bonsai and Scar City. I’ve planned the sequence of events, the plot twists, and everything that Bonsai turned from a trilogy to a 10-book epic. The thing was, I may have planned too much and my characters are stubborn douche bags that don’t want to listen to my directing. Suppressing them in a totalitarian-style, only made things worst, many of them rebelled, some were subdued and press ganged back to dear ol’ papa. It stagnated my writing progress and the cost of time was the equivalent of spending trillions of euros on military weaponry and war campaigns.

I kept my pants on during Tunnel Crow Town and one of my lead has ended up in a very bad position. The thing is, some of my friends who did had similar issues, decided to rewrite the half of what they’ve accomplished so far, just to find another route. I do that too, honestly. But sometimes, the dead end is so pretty – or ugly, depending on your perspective – you just want to smash that fucking wall, build a bridge over that piranha-infested swamp, dig underground with a spoon to escape that prison – you’ll never know what wonders may lie ahead. Take risks. George R.R. Martin did, and see how that turned out. Yes, I’m leaving that statement ambiguous.

So, as I’ve said, I’ve found a place somewhere in between outlining and pantsing. I’ve planned directions from Point A to Point B, and my fucking hippie characters, will just have to find their way there – I’ll try my best not to kill some of them off, but if it comes to that, even the main protagonist will not safe. I wouldn’t bother on putting up memos either, unless it’s really important. Whatever happens, happens. Of course, I still have power to make revisions on the next draft. The main goal is to build a skeleton to put all that meat on and see what monstrosity will be born from it.

Through that style of writing was chilling and adrenaline pumping. You know where you’re going, but which path you take is a wild card. And that’s pretty scary, truth be told. But the passion will be there.

On other news, my friends and I are working on a website – well, blog for now (we’re like, broke). It will focus on citizen journalism (mainly in the Philippines – but hey, any foreign page viewer will see the country’s fucked upness), creative writing, photography, tech & geeky stuff, which includes literature, film, games, and so on. It’s quite ambitious to make something of this size. We’ve got nothing to lose anyway. More info soon to follow.

My buddy, who lives in Wisconsin – as far as I know, has started his own publishing company. I haven’t talked to him about it yet, but it’s great that he started something so early. More info soon to follow.

Now listening Give Life Back to Music by Daft Punk.

Innards of An Erratic Writer #6

I claim no expertise on writing. But I did pick up a couple of things along the way, which I feel like sharing – for any of its tiny, tiny worth. One of those things came from a fellow writer, who called himself, Match. He said, “Read, Write, Practice.” And I have been living to that principle ever since. But when things started to get harder, I decided to outsource some help, in the form of books.

A few months ago I acquired two writing books, you might have heard of them – “Bird by Bird” and “Writing Down The Bones” by Anna Lamott and Natalie Goldberg, respectively. I’ve also been hunting for Stephen King’s “On Writing” but the book has become a mythical figure in this country, and having to scour for it without hope is tempting me to rip people’s eyelids out – just in case there is one hidden there.

Now, these books offer fantastic advice and suggestions on writing. But, it’s just that. The authors’ opinions. It sure boosts your morale, for a time, and then you find yourself withered again. You’ll soon be looking for another book for inspiration, and the cycle repeats. The thing is, I noticed some writers, tend to read a lot, hoping to find some hidden wisdom within the sea of text. Some secret why this guy is a freaking bestseller, while yours has yet to be pulled from the slush pile. Or maybe, reading books itself is the form of inspiration.

I then rediscovered an old book, required by my college professor, claiming it to be the “Bible of All Journalists”, “Elements of Style” by Strunk and White, which turned out to be the “Bible of All Writers”. Everything you need to know about writing is in that iPhone 5-thin book.

But there is something else missing. It’s the actual process of writing. Lots of writers (at least, the ones I know) stare into the white void of their monitors, trying to figure out how to start their story or procrastinate on how to write a compelling hook. Doubts and hesitations here and there, time passes, and either a few words were written and author is not happy, or there is nothing written at all.

I say, just write.

Cut off as many distractions as possible. Most of it come from the Internet, TV, and sometimes, from music. I’m not saying you need a shed, a writing closet, or an empty all-white room in order to write (might help a lot, though). But what you need is a comfortable space where you can write for long, backbreaking, periods, stand up and stretch for the first time in 12 hours and say, “I’ve written a lot of shit today.” Edit should come later, keep writing forward, until you’ve ran a full circle around your world. Of course, writing for 12 hours straight is impractical and unreasonable, especially for people who have day jobs, family, and other matters.

So, this is what I do. On rare, lucky occasions, I wake up earlier than usual. I take this time to stretch a bit, take my laptop and start punching those keys up until it’s time to hit the shower. It is important to note that it’s better practice to do this religiously – write early, while it’s still dark, while other people are snoring, and while watching the sky turn orange and red with birds chirping and the roosters doing whatever ear-splitting noise they make. Sometimes it will rain, you’ll hear it pounding on the roof, the shutters fluttering against the wind, knocking down family portraits and other photographs. The important thing, is to write.  Sometimes I break my own rule, I spend an hour or less to check  on the things I wrote so far. Just to make sure my plotting remains consistent, and make really quick edits. Then I push on.

Times when it is dull at work, I write as much as possible. On the way home, while in the train or van, I whip out my phone and type snippets, scenes far from where my story’s current position is, and I’ll rewrite it later and fuse all these scattered fragments into one.

It’s important to write in every possible moment. For most of us, hoping to earn some money in writing and plan to change the world somehow, someway, time is an investment we need to handle with every care.

Above all, don’t forget how fun it is to write. Keep writing folks.