Switching it Up
There’s an age-old question that writer’s always get asked: Pantser or planner? In non-writer language that means do you plan your novels or do you go by the seat of your pants?
Over the years, I’ve written around ten novels. Some of them will never see the light of day, but they served their purpose of giving me a chance to practice and hone both my writing and my method. In the early days, I was a pretty meticulous planner. I knew what I wanted the Story to be going in, and I didn’t let myself deviate from that.
Those were also the years where I was finding who I was as a writer. More than anything, I struggled with character development. I was so set on the delicate house of cards I was building that I refused to let the characters just breathe and move around in the space, much to the detriment of the story.
With Still Dark my fourth written, first released novel, I started to loosen the reins a bit. I knew what the story was, where I wanted it to go, but I also started to see certain settings as playgrounds or stages. It was my job as the writer to get everyone in place where they needed to be, but once they were there, I started to let them play a bit. Some scenes went longer than I planned. Others sprouted off into new scenes, new conflicts, new moments. In short, when I started to trust the characters to behave like real people, my books started to get better.
In the novels since, I’ve switched it up even more. I’ve started novels without much of a plan at all, just a vague idea. The end result has been a change to my process overall, putting more effort into editing instead of fretting so much over the first draft. All of this is not to say one method is better than another, just better for me. I’ve finally figured out which parts to plan and which ones to leave up to chance.
At the end of the day, it’s all about trusting myself as a writer. Back in the day, I would hold on to a single idea, a single scene or conflict that I just knew would make a book. I would pad out everything around it, refusing to just get to the damn point already because I was afraid that one scene might be all I had. One of my favorite quotes is, “What do you do after you lay down all your cards? You find new cards.”
Still Dark is a living example of that mentality. Scenes that could have been the climax come in the first 50 pages, and guess what? It only gets more tense from there. I finally figured out how to find new cards.
When a thunderous explosion rocks an idyllic cabin resort in the Great Smoky Mountains, animals and humans alike begin to act strange. Jim, along with his wife Laura and son, Sam, are cut off from the outside world, but they soon realize the true nightmare is just beginning…
Deep in the snow-covered woods, something is waiting. The creature calls itself Apex, and it’s a traveler. Reading the minds of those around it, Apex brings the terrifying fears hidden in the human psyche to life with a singular purpose: to kill any that stand in its way.
Locked in a fight for their lives, Jim and his family must uncover the truth behind Apex, and stop the creature from wreaking a horrifying fate upon the rest of the world!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR — D.W. Gillespie has been writing dark fiction in one form or another since he was old enough to hold a pencil. He’s been featured in multiple horror anthologies, both in print and online. Still Dark is his debut novel, and his second book, a short collection titled Handmade Monsters, arrives in 2017. He lives in Tennessee with his wife and two children.
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This post first appeared on An Opener's Closing By L. E. White | Weekly Fictio, please read the originial post: here