Works of fiction appearing here are © 2011-2016 by Jack H. Tyler, and are not to be assumed to lie in the public domain.
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Saturday, September 24, 2016

The right-brained writer

          For those of you about to take me to task, I am well aware that this isn't Thursday.  I am lifting my head from the sea of fun and games that have become my life in order to celebrate a milestone in my writing career.  It was September 19th, 2014 when I opened the Groups page on The Steampunk Empire and clicked on the "Add Group" button.  I posted there, as I have in so many places, a picture of my classy old desk.  Whenever I want to add a bit of elegance to a project, the grand old lady never lets me down.  It then asked me to write a description of the group I was creating.  These words described it perfectly, and in the last two years, not one has been changed:
          "Welcome to Scribblers' Den, the online tavern where authors of the ~punk genres can meet to share concepts and philosophies of The Craft in the hope that these conversations will provide the fertile ground that will give rise to tomorrow's incredible ideas.  You needn't be a famous author, nor even a published one to be a member.  You need only be serious.  This group is not about exclusion nor limitations, in fact it has only one rule:  No personal attacks on a fellow member for expressing his or her own opinion.  Violation of that axiom will get you thrown out of here so fast it will leave you with whiplash, and this is the only warning that will be given.  So pull up a chair, order a round, and put your wares on the table.  This is the place where imaginations fly!"
           There are 180 members of Scribblers' Den, a writers' group within the Steampunk Empire as most of you know, and we are far and away the most active group in the Empire.  Last year the anniversary fell on a Saturday, and the members, from sunrise in Australia to sunset in California and British Columbia, celebrated by way of a virtual tea party, each member joining in as his or her part of the world came into daylight.  This year, the date falls on a Monday.  As many of the less fortunate Denizens have nasty ol' jobs, we are moving the party to the following Saturday, and we invite everyone, members or no, to join us at the Scribblers' Den website for fun times and stimulating conversation.  There is also an exciting announcement for fans of steampunk literature which you'll find at the bottom of the post, so read on to the end; you'll be glad you did!  Meanwhile, here's a bonus article to tickle your thinking bones.
          Among my writing friends, I am known as something of a freak for my lengthy and detailed outlining.  This occurs in layers, and I find that I must outline straight through to the final scene before I start writing.  I've tried starting the writing without the outline finished; it hasn't gone well.  Some of them find my process so disturbing that they find ways to insult me, mostly saying that outlining stifles creativity, reducing the process to more or less filling in the blanks.  I insult them right back, pointing out that outlining simply moves the creative process to a step where it is much easier to correct problems when something goes awry, negating the need to rewrite half a novel after you've written yourself into a corner.  Sometimes, when I'm feeling particularly nasty, I challenge them to explain how they can tell me a story when they themselves don't know what it is.  But this is all just friendly rivalry between people with similar interests, and means no more to outsiders than the squabbles between sailors and marines that seem to predate recorded history.  What I decided to do is to try to analyze the reasons behind our opposing styles.
          People who follow my process are known among enthusiasts as Planners, for obvious reasons.  We make a plan, and for the most part, follow it.  The opposing camp is known as Pantsers, or those who "fly by the seat of their pants."  I can't talk about their process.  Can't do it.  Tried it once, it was a disaster.  Perhaps a Pantser would care to explain in a guest post?  The conclusion I have come to is that I am pretty dominantly right-brained.
          The right hemisphere is known to manage the creative stuff, the intuitive, things like interpreting facial expressions, vocal inflection, and performing quick, rough calculations and estimates.  The left hemisphere is the home of math, science, and engineering, so it would be natural to imagine, as I did, that left-brainers would be the outliners, and right-brainers the chaotic free-form composers.  In practice, though, just the opposite seems to happen.  My primary writing skills, which people have long remarked upon and complimented, are in weaving the story in great surprising arcs, and dialogue, free-flowing and natural.  This creative material is right-brained stuff.  What isn't is structure, the tight integration of plot points in logical order from inception to conclusion, and that, friends, is why I have to write it all down, scene by scene as it comes to me.  I can't carry it all in my head, count sections, plug them all in and out and evaluate where they fit, and where they might be better without having them all written out where I can see and evaluate them all at once without losing any.  In other words, all those things that Pantsers do with a facility they take for granted.
          I have long used a notebook.  I had to have something I could carry with me, because what with the work environment, I was always on the go.  The disadvantage to a notebook is that once you write something in there, that's where it is, in terms of the outline.  The tenth thing you write remains the tenth thing you write pretty much forever.  Oh, you can write in pencil, which I do, but then if you start changing stuff, your life becomes erasing, and trying to remember what you'd written long enough to write it somewhere else.  I have long read of Planners who use index cards to write each plot point on, and can then shuffle the order, add new ones between existing ones, and all sorts of flexible things that give them a great advantage over a notebook.  Now that I'm retired, and the only place I have to be is home, I'm going to give that a try.  I can spread them out, sort, shuffle, reorder, all without worrying about a boss who's going to want to know what the hell I'm doing.  I highly recommend retirement. It stops the bullshirt train dead in its tracks!
          So, do Pantsers, for all of their effortless facility with pulling a plot out of thin air, suffer with the weaving of story lines and the easy facility that I enjoy writing dialogue?  Is their experience the exact opposite of that of a Planner?  Curious minds want to know, so maybe some of the Pantsers among you can enlighten me.  I wasn't ready to hear you before.  I am now, but if you're going to be insulting, don't expect to get off lightly!

          And now we come to the mysterious announcement.  Some of the Denizens have collaborated on an anthology to celebrate our anniversary which is being collated and formatted by Bryce Raffle, one of the true movers and shakers of the Den, and is tentatively being considered for release around November 5th.  Updates will be announced here and at the Den as they become available.  If you have ever been curious about the literature of steampunk, this is a golden opportunity to obtain some short, easily digestible works by some of the leading lights at the forefront of the movement today...  And there's a story in there by me, too!  So come indulge your curiosity, and get a collection of brilliant offerings by some hard-working authors who aren't writing for a publisher in pursuit of the Last Big Thing!
          When one thinks of a den, one tends to think of comfort.  A cozy room in the house—a quiet, comfortable place, a room for conversation, reading, or writing.  One doesn’t tend to think of high adventure, dragons, vampires, airships, or paranormal creatures.  And yet, that’s just what you’ll find in these pages.  Stories of adventure and mystery!  Paranormal, dark, and atmospheric tales!  The fantastical and the imaginative, the dystopian and post-apocalyptic, and everything in between!
          So settle in to the coziest room in your house, plop down into your favorite armchair, and dive in to the Den of Antiquity.  Featuring stories by Jack Tyler, E.C. Jarvis, Kate Philbrick, Neale Green, Bryce Raffle, N.O.A. Rawle, David Lee Summers, William J. Jackson, Steve Moore, Karen J. Carlisle, Alice E. Keyes and B.A. Sinclair.
          October 8th is National Independent Author Day.  Sign up to participate at a library near you, and make Den of Antiquity part of your celebration.  Meet a dozen indies on the frontier of imagination.  Maybe you'll discover a relationship with your new favorite author.
          And until we meet again, read well, and write better!

~ "Blimprider"

4 comments:

  1. I'm with you, Jack. I'm a plotter all the way. One thing I just my notebook for, though, is just to brainstorm ideas. Sometimes I'll noodle around with a piece of a story and see how it works. When I get serious about plotting, sometimes I've been known to write plot points on index cards. I've been known to "carpet" whole rooms of the house in cards as I shuffle points around and figure out what plot point comes before which other one. Once I'm happy, I type it all into the computer, then I'm ready to write! Happy Anniversary to the Scribbler's Den!

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    1. Happy anniversary, Denizen! Good of you to drop by. Yeah, I don't know how they do it. It's just too easy to leave something out, or forget where someone is, or something. Lt. Gadgety is off at the store, and one of the things on her list is a big pack of index cards, so I'll be joining you in that cards-all-over format soon, likely for Stingaree. I'm sure this blog will be rife with stories about how it works out.

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  2. Hi. I'm a pantser, but I wonder if you knew already or not. My story starts as follows: outline, ignore it. Reread outline. Add to it. Write like mad. Stop. Read books for research. Jot down tons of notes, most never used. Write like mad. Stop.Move to something else. Start another story. Stop. Return to first story with new insight. Write like mad.
    For mire details see the Mad Hatter, Joker and any insane person.
    Great blog!

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    1. Welcome, William, good to see you here! It sounds from your description that you're a hybrid, writing an outline and then pantsing from it. Whatever you're doing, it's working.

      Readers in this age of the grand remake who are looking for something that isn't a "retelling" (pronounced "rip-off") of the last big thing should seriously pay a visit to https://therailbaron.wordpress.com/2016/08/20/cerulean-rust-99-for-a-day/

      It's worth your while!

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