1. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Pantsing (or, 'the value of freewriting')

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tea@3, Jan 14, 2016.


    This is a follow-up to my earlier thread: http://www.writingforums.org/threads/do-you-keep-typing-when-you-arent-feeling-anything.143327/



    I've been bouncing back and forth between outlining and winging it. Like some have said here, my best scenes often come from unplanned spontaneous typing sessions. Although, ironically, I usually resist starting up those spontaneous sessions. From what I read here, many others do too. Most seem to want to write sequentially, in order, and knowing where they are going in advance.

    So I've been reading some of the 'pantsing' threads and posts and it just dawned on me, that's really just another name for 'free-writing'. IMO a healthy routine will incorporate both planning and pantsing, with one or the other being more dominate depending on the person.

    So, pondering all this took me back to 30 years ago to when I was in art school. (yes it's true)

    Back in that era (and maybe still today, but I am out of touch with that world so I don't know) there was a lot of buzz surrounding the RIGHT BRAIN vs LEFT BRAIN discussion.

    (the book 'drawing on the right side of the brain' was huge, and still may be)

    In my university we renamed it the Intuitive vs Cerebral approach. (which is basically what right vs left is trying to say, in layman's terms)

    So why am I posting this?

    Because I think perhaps all of the theorizing and digging around for 'technique explanation/description' and 'validation of one's method/routine' really boils down to whether one is proceeding cerebrally or intuitively (R vs L) in their writing process.

    And outlining -vs- pantsing is a perfect example of this battle of the two hemispheres, IMO.

    Back in drawing class, we had to learn to silence our inner critic and 'let it flow' in order to activate the part of the mind that brought us to that 'intuitive' state that led to truly inspired results. Thinking 'cerebrally' wouldn't get us there. But, after the dust settled, you analyzed your drawing cerebrally after the fact to measure the value of what you just created. And some of them were mis-fires, some needed adjustments, and some were effortless and flawless from the moment of creation.

    I think this R/L brain discussion is a metaphor for the free-writing (intuitive) and editing (cerebral/logical) processes we perform as writers.

    I think there's huge value in letting yourself go in a free-write. I also think you need to later activate your logical brain to adjust and polish the writing before it's presentable.

    Any thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2016
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  2. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    What you are saying is basically that in order to write an effective novel (in terms of tension-arc), one has to do both. I agree :)

    As you yourself have pointed out everyone goes about it their own way. What works for me needn't work for anyone else. I need to plan the tension-arc. Tried out just free-writing in the first four chapters and it worked marvelously to get my WIP off to a fast start. Yet at the 2/3 point I found out that in terms of tension-arc it leaves something to be desired (logical thinking). To make my novel as effective as it can be I need to go back and modify these chapers. Doing that right now, engaging again my free-writing skills. But at least I know already where the endpoint will be, so it is a merging :D
    And it makes the WIP truly captivating.
     
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  3. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    About 99% of my writing has been technical writing of one form or another, dealing with engineering documentation, system specifications, development plans, maintenance and training documentation. I don't know which side of the brain is which, but it is DEFINITELY cerebral. I also have a few personal non-fiction pieces in preparation, one on war and one on physics, also definitely cerebral. This type of writing I always outline, and in fact, since I use headers and subheaders extensively, I write them first, and then go in to fill in the text. My technical work gets high praise for its clarity and readability, not usually associated with that sort of thing!

    My creative (fiction) writing is totally different. Perhaps that is in rebellion to my "day job" style, or it may be because simply put, it IS creative, and therefore running on another brain engine. Just for me, as we are all different, but I feel that if I outlined my creative work and pre-built my characters I would create something very dry and prefabricated. So I prefer to let the story roll, and find out what is going on as I write it. I usually crank out about 4-5 pages in my nightly three-hour blocks. I joke that I am just taking dictation from my characters, typing and trying to keep up with what they are telling me, but that is what it feels like. It works for me, and I haven't wound up in a blind alley yet. I have a long range plan for the beginning, middle and end, but what happens in between sometimes comes as a total surprise to me.

    My editing comes in two phases. Real-time editing comes as I am writing. I proofread each paragraph as I finish it, looking first for SPaG, secondly for run on sentences (my personal failing), make sure the taglines refer to the right person, and read it aloud to see how it sounds, especially if it is dialogue. Takes not more than five minutes. After I finish a chapter, I reread that as a story... normally about 5-10 minutes, and again pick up SPaG that I missed on paragraph edit: I do this on my technical writing as well. Very rarely, I may rewrite a chapter, sometimes several times, because on the chapter read-through I feel one of the characters is not acting "in character." I have to either figure out and explain why he/she acted that way, or maybe I misunderstood what the character was doing. After that, I don't do anything with it again until I finish the complete draft. While I am writing, I keep a very positive view of the story, thinking how good it is, how everyone is going to enjoy it: I do that with my technical writing as well, as that helps self-motivate myself. It's not ego, it is actually self-motivation: visualize success and it will usually come. Also true if you visualize failure!

    Major editing happens after the story is finished. I find it incompatible with my initial writing, because as noted above, I keep myself focused on how great the story (or documentation) is while writing it. Revision editing requires me to become harshly critical of what I have done: does this piece belong, would that character really do that, is there a better way to say this, does it even need to be said? If I mix that self-criticism into the middle of the first draft, I will stall out, and the book will not get finished. In fact, that happened to my current WIP, and it took about 13 years to get restarted on it. Having said that, when I did finish the editing of what was to become the first third of the final version, I recovered my optimism, determined that it wasn't as bad as I had thought it was, rewrote the beginning, and finished the last several hundred pages in about a year.

    So... for fiction, I am definitely a "pantser." For non-fiction, I am an outliner. Works for me.
     
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  4. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    That whole right brain / left brain concept has I'm afraid been fairly much outdated. Here's a more recent article on it:

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/the-real-neuroscience-of-creativity/

    As for the rest well I'm pure pantster. I believe some call us gardeners as opposed to architects, and you'd want to call it intuitive. However, it's not really a choice for me. As I say I'm pure in this regard.

    To give you an idea of what this means, a couple of months ago I came up with an idea for a new novel - "three Wishes" in which I conceived a riddle of three wishes, in which the MC would make three wishes, everyone of them carefully worded and everyone of them would go horribly wrong. But they would go wrong spectacularly as another character had also made three wishes, all of which had gone spectacularly wrong despite the careful wording, and all of which prevented the MC's wishes from happening, while in turn the MC's wishes would all mess up the other character's wishes. In short it was a really complex riddle - but it was brilliant.

    So having nutted out the riddle I started plotting realising that this was exactly the sort of book that needed exact plotting. So I wrote an excellent plot, outlining key points and almost chapters, as I wove the story about the riddle, and that too in my own humble opinion was brilliant.

    Then I started writing the book. But within a page I had already gone off the plot and was writing a different story. So I straightened the writing a little, rewrote the plot, and carried on. And guess what, a few pages later I was once more off the plot. So back to the drawing board and plot number three.

    Ten plots later more or less and I don't know how many chapters, I realised the truth. I am a pantster. I can write a detailed and perfectly interwoven plot, but I can't write to it. Pantsting is not optional for me. It's simply the only way I can work.

    That means I have now perhaps a hundred and fifty unfinished novels on my computer - all started but ended because I don't know where they'll end, or often enough stopped because another idea for another book came up in the middle of writing, and I had to start writing it instead. But for all that I write fast - absolutely involved in my writing, my characters are very true to life in the decisions they make and their feelings, and I've published 24 books.

    There's really no point for me in arguing about which works best, or in even trying to incorporate plotting elements to focus my stories. I write as I write and I can do nothing else.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
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  5. Electralight
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    Wow. That's actually really interesting. It makes sense, but at the same time it is very mind boggling (no pun intended).
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you're right that there needs to be a balance between intuition/creativity and discipline/intellect, but I'm not sure it translates tidily into pantser/plotter.

    I'm one of those pantsers who edits as she goes. I very rarely do much significant rewriting once I'm done the first draft, just a few little tweaks. And I feel like, writing like that, I'm using both "sides of my brain" (using the term figuratively) at the same time. I'm being creative, but I'm also paying attention to details and structure and taking the story in a direction that won't end up with me writing myself into a corner.

    So, am I a pantser? Yeah, for sure. I try to outline sometimes, but it rarely works out for me. But do I turn off my discipline/intellect when I'm pantsing? I don't think think I do.
     
  7. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    I can't remember where I saw this; I think it was in one of my writing books years ago. They were talking about the difference between dreaming up things to write 'in the moment' while swept away by adrenaline and feeling 'liberated'....

    ...and that moment when one returns to reread it all only to have the 'inner critic/editor' say "Hey this is implausible, this or that needs adjusting, this or that passage conflicts with some other passage, etc."

    They were saying that logical thinking works differently from free-thinking creative thinking. (Though that is not to say logic can't be creative too. And I agree with Bayview that it can probably happen simultaneously for some people.)

    I guess what I intended with my OP was to say that some of us self-restrict by going too far toward the logical side and resist 'letting go' to allow the 'free-thinking' creative intuition take over. I think I have struggled with that in the past, and recently learned to remind myself it's OKAY to let go and unleash the creative side, and not be so perfectionist in the early stages.

    In a way you could say one gains more control over their own creativity by loosening their grip. (ironically)

    Maybe it boils down to Thinking vs Feeling. As in, you 'feel' write the early drafts, then do your revising by thinking logically.

    I hope this post isn't a jumbled mess. I fear it is! :/
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2016
  8. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I think comparing writing to art is not the best way to go about it. Abstract art is the simplest form of art (Photography doesn't count), which is strictly the lack of logic entirely. Now if you were to employ that random creativity to writing without logic, your story will make no sense (or possibly even random clusters of letters). You have to have some form of balance, but spontaneity adds an element that a prefabricated mold cannot. Think of it as the ability to have things happen at a time when they just happen, no rhyme or reason, the unpredictable event simply can happen whenever without warning. Formulaic has a set pattern to how and when events happen, and can be dull. Something unexpected makes it feel more real, than following the rules and guidelines. :p
     
  9. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    On second thought, I don't think I understand your post. :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2016
  10. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Well I tried. :D
     
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  11. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Art is a whole can of worms lol and I agree maybe it wasn't the best analogy to use.

    I still have scars on my back form art school. :/
     
  12. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I did not go to art school. When I want to feel like a bad artist I go to elfwood.com and see all the amazing Fantasy and Sci-fi art posted there. There are a lot of amazing artists there. I don't go there all that often, because I don't have the urge to play masochist to my feeble works compared to photo quality oil paintings of amazing things. One could say I am here to do the same for my writing abilities. :D
     
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