Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Perils of Pantser Pauline

But first, a censorship update. Since Monday’s bad weather bypassed us, I was able to get to our local Barnes and Noble to see if It, Stephen King’s vintage ‘80s opus, is still politically incorrect. And the answer is … Don’t know yet. With four shelves devoted to Mr. King’s oeuvre, B&N did not have a copy of It. Neither did the used book store down the street. Neither did the three libraries I checked. I’m not saying it was on loan; I’m saying they didn’t have a physical copy at all. One had an audio version, but it was out. The next-nearest B&N is over in Berks County, and there’s another library along the route. I’ll keep you posted.

I had better luck with Huckleberry Finn. That one’s readily available in libraries and bookstores, uncut and in all its offensive glory. That’s the advantage of being a classic. You can’t just sweep it under the rug without protest and a lot of discussion. Discussion is good. Discussion exposes people to new ideas. This is why we write, and why we battle censorship.

I don’t think It has been censored. It could be the publisher hasn’t issued a new edition in a while. For all I know, B&N did have a copy and sold it the day before I got there. I found the word I was checking up on in another Stevie book, which answers my original question. I’ll stay on the lookout for It, though, just to be thorough.

B&N had plenty of copies of 50 Shades of Grey. For some reason, Flowers in the Attic is now shelved in the Young Adult section. Because the protags are kids? I suspect with the rise of the New Adult label, publishers are scouring their backlists for former bestsellers with 20something protags in order to hop on the NA bandwagon and squeeze a few extra bucks out of readers. I never read Flowers—couldn’t get past the first two pages—but I understand it contains child abuse and brother-sister incest. I guess that’s okay everywhere except in self-published romance. Wonder if Amazon’s taken it down yet?

# # #

Here’s a cautionary tale for all you pantsers out there, and for any writer thinking of attempting a serial novel. I hear people are experimenting with those again, now that self-pubbing has made it feasible. That’s where you treat a book like one of those old movie serials—a new chapter every week or month or whatever, preferably ending on a cliffhanger to bring the reader/viewer back next week. Charles Dickens’s work was published this way, in monthly magazine installments. Up until the advent of the Internet, the only modern (1990s) example I can think of is Stephen King’s The Green Mile, which was doled out in print booklets, a chapter a month, as an experiment to see if the reading public would buy a book that way. I guess not, since I’m not aware of any other print serial novels. The Internet’s a different beast. You can post a chapter a day if you want to.

Assuming, of course, you’ve written it.

Over on my other blog, Shapeshifter Seductions, I’ve been posting a story in roughly 1000-word chapters, one every Monday. I’ve put up nine chapters so far. It’s even spilled over into some of my fellow writers’ blogs. I’ve got my characters, action, romance, a threat to everybody’s happiness, and something resembling a plot. What I don’t have is the second half of the book.

I’m a pantser. I don’t plot things out before I start writing. I just plunge right in and see where the story goes. Sometimes I know what happens; a lot of times I only have a vague idea, or no idea at all. That can be good or bad. The good: you don’t know any more than the readers do what’s going to happen next. Surprise is guaranteed. The bad: if you don’t know what happens next, you can’t write it. The story comes to a screeching halt.

The ugly: readers who’ve invested their time in your story are going to be pissed as hell.

If you’re a pantser and you’re considering posting a serial novel, take it from me: WRITE THE ENTIRE BOOK FIRST. Finish it. Polish it. THEN put it up on Amazon in installments, or on your blog or wherever. Plotters can post as they go because they’ve already outlined their book. They know where they’re headed. We don’t. We run the risk of hitting a wall with no immediate way over or around it. Meanwhile, the readers are clamoring for the next chapter. Even worse, they’re liable to walk off in a huff, never to return.

This is where I find myself right now. I’ve got two more chapters in the can and that’s it. Game over. It’s a shame, because I know where I’d like to see the story go. I know what happens to most of my characters, who gets the happy ending and who doesn’t. There’s a big action scene with help from an unexpected source. A gigantic monster gets taken down in an unusual way. Most of the characters get what they want, including one of the bad guys. Two characters who should be mortal enemies bond over their mutual love of grenade launchers. I even have an alternate ending for bad guy Cochrane, which I’m sure Serena would enjoy.

Trouble is, I have no idea how to get from where I am now to where I’d like to be. Until I can figure that out, the whole thing will have to go on hold. I should probably write the ending, even though it may change. How about it, fellow writers? Any suggestions? Encouragement? Advice?

Now I know how J. K. Rowling must have felt. She wrote her final chapter first, then had to write an entire seven-book series to get there. I think she’s a plotter, though, so she had an advantage. And a ton more money than I do. It might be time to brush up on my atrophied outlining skills. Y’think?


Savanna Kougar said...

Outline... or do whatever works. Yeah, a lot help that is, right?

Is IT available on Amazon? I don't know how much you can preview, or if you can check out that section of the book... but it could be worth a look. Also, if Google books has IT they practically give the book away... yeah, who cares about the author's royalties. Google is one tentacle of the beast.

Anyhoo, being a pantser is tough, especially when you want to write fast... that is, if inspiration doesn't strike. Even if it does, if life doesn't cooperate... well, you know all about that.

As far as Ewan and Maureen's story, I bet it's all there just waiting to unfold.

Serena Shay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Serena Shay said...

OMG something I would like happens to Cochrane I would like? Dig in, Pat. Dig in!! ~wink, I'm so spoiled~

I don't know if this will help the getting them there situation, but one way I've found of kicking the story in the butt is to work on a secondary character if the main ones are being bums. In the end I usually throw out or majorly edit that part, but it gets the mains to come around. Usually bitching about them being the focus of this book and aren't I an uppity author to think I can just move on... author comes out sounding like bitch but with Mz Muse in the drivers seat I'm no longer surprised. :D

Or, do indeed start writing out the ending and soon the middle should fall right into place.

I'm pretty surprised that you haven't found It was one of his biggies.

Serena Shay said...

LOL...rereading my post I realized I duplicated myself...sheesh, it has been that kind of week. ;)

Pat C. said...

I checked the Lancaster County online catalog and two libraries carry print copies of IT. However, (a) both are about an hour's drive away, and (b) if they both have the same edition I do, it's not going to do me any good. I'll keep checking bookstores. What I'd like to find is a recent reissue, from 2000 or so, if one exists. That would be the most likely to be tampered with.

The biggest holdup to the SSS storyline right now is logistics. The way it's going in my head, I need three characters to be kidnapped and two of them become monsters. Then one of them heads back to Talbot's Peak with the other two. With the Doctor and the lab in Colorado, we're now talking time and distance problems. If I can figure out how to make this feasible, then I'll be okay.

Maureen has to get kidnapped because her shifter genes ensure she'd survive the mutation process, so now I need to come up with a way for the Doctor to find that out. And also because she's the girl. She has to get kidnapped so Ewan can save her. Who wants to do a brainstorming session?

Pat C. said...

Serena, tell you what: I'll write the Cochrane "alternate ending" and send it to you. This would come into play if he doesn't die or have a change of heart or something. All that's up in the air right now.

Serena Shay said...

I'm in for brainstorming. In fact, I'll shoot you an email with a thought on your Maureen issue.

If it would help you work the story out please send the alt ending. If not I'll be tough and wait. ~biting my nails~

Savanna Kougar said...

What about two of the Scooby gang getting kidnapped? Heck, Damien Hancock would have a way of transporting them back to Talbot's Peak to thus wreak havoc. I'm certain I can come up with how Damien makes that happen.

Pat C. said...

Two of the Scooby gang DO get kidnapped. They're the ones who get changed into monsters.

I think I'm going to wreck the suspense and send the group my outline. Then we can take it from there. I'll mark it SPOILERS so anyone who doesn't want to join in can wait for the story to unfold.

I just wish there was some way to tell if anyone other than us is reading this.

Savanna Kougar said...

Do you mean reading these comments?

Even if they are, it isn't probably enough folks to stop readers from enjoying.

Pat C. said...

I meant reading the story over on SSS. If I knew for sure nobody cared, I could just quit. We'll see what happens after I post the next two chapters, which is all I have right now.

Savanna Kougar said...

Got it.