#SaysTheEditor: Transformations



Weeks fifteen and sixteen are behind us now. They’ve been weeks of transformations, if not for me personally — seems that the status quo is holding, and I suppose that’s good — but for the things in my life.

My bike now sports its new handlebar tape. While there’s some pink in the tape, there’s not enough to be confused with what tried to take me out. Mostly, what you see is black. It has changed the look of my bike. Maybe it makes it look as evil as the bike must be, to have attacked the way it did. (although I’m still holding out hope for demon possession or voodoo being the cause.)

It was my first time wrapping handlebars. I think I did okay. I think I’d have done better, except my road bike has this cool feature: a second set of hand brakes up on top of the handlebars. This is super useful when I want to sit upright and don’t need to change gears but want the brakes near to hand. (Go figure someone wants their brakes handy.)

And my furniture has been shifted around, thanks to a birthday gift. The old couch is in the basement, with more to follow. New stuff is arriving in dibs and dabs and hopefully without holes, at least for rounds two and three. Too late for round one.

If you missed it, Women’s Day featured me as one of Ten Real Women Open Up About How They Make Money Working From Home. The link will take you to the page about me, but take a few minutes to look at them all. Interesting group I’m part of. Pretty darn cool.

So what’s all this got to do with writing? This is a #SaysTheEditor post, after all.

Well, just that a few weeks ago, the only change I saw on the horizon was the handlebar tape. When my sister and I ripped the old pink tape off, I knew I wanted new furniture. Knew I needed it. Didn’t expect to have the funds so quickly. (That $60 an hour in the interview sounds good until you look at the reality and how my time is divided up and accounted for!) Didn’t expect to find the furniture on my first real trip to a store. I mean, I was only killing time, gathering intel, learning…

And that’s how transformation affects your writing. When you are open to letting the story (or life) take you where you need to go, where it needs to take you, you find… new possibilities. New horizons. New furniture!

The pantsters — those of us who write by the seat of our pants — are all nodding sagely. We get this. We live it. We open up a document, introduce some characters, and sit back and see where it’ll take us. We’re all about these moments that wind up being story transformations. “But the book wasn’t supposed to be about you, minor character!” we’ll howl and try to fight the minor character who has seized control. But even as we do, we know it’s futile. Our story’s transformed.

But you plotters? (and one of my upcoming books was written to an outline, so maybe I’m one of you now, too?) It’s a harder thing. Plotters have a tighter control on their stories and their characters. At first sign of that minor character and his or her contemplation of a coup, the plotter nudges them back in line. If that doesn’t work, they make promises: behave in this one and the next one’s all about you.

Still not working? They chuck the character to the curb. Figuratively speaking.

This is both good and bad. Plotters sometimes miss the beauty of finding a better story. They miss the shock, the frustration, the process of coming to accept the story’s transformation. Yes, it’s a process. And like most processes, even the familiar ones, it’s a learning experience.

But so is the discipline of sticking to your plot, of staying focused on the story you sat down intending to write. Maybe when you don’t deviate from your outline, the transformations can still happen. They’re just more subtle. The author has to seek them out and maybe they’re not on a big, universal level. Maybe the discovery is in the small stuff, like how the new handlebar tape feels under hands that are still a bit unsteady on this particular bike. Maybe the transformation that happens is just subtle enough to make the author a bit uncertain at first. Like poking a toe into a pond to gauge how cold the water is.

Us pantsters miss out on this part of the writing process. Maybe that lack of discipline actually winds up hurting our attempts to write a strong story. Maybe we miss the subtle stuff.

I’m not sure, so chime in with your experiences in the comments. Pantster? Plotter? What have been your biggest transformations in your fiction?

Fess up. I’m all ears. Relaxing in my new chair-and-a-half, but all ears.



  1. Mary Sutton

    April 28, 2016 9:36 am

    Can I be half-way between pantser and plotter? I’ve found I get a better story when I have an agglomeration of related ideas, if not an exact outline. At least for novels. Short stories are a whole ‘nothing thing.

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