When I do readings or book signings, I'm often asked
how do I go about writing my novels. Do I prepare an outline? Are all my
characters well defined before I start writing? How about the plot, is it clear
in my mind and well thought out? In short, do I know what I'm going to write
about before I start writing my piece?
To all these very important questions I've one and
only one good answer which I borrowed from a good friend fellow writer. You
see, he once told me fiction authors fall into two general categories: the
"Plotters" and the "Pantsers." The Plotters' answer to all
the above questions is a simple "yes". They spend countless hours, if
not months thinking about plots, characters, storyline, setting etc. and when
they are done and have carefully researched and documented their thoughts, they
start writing the novel. It's a laborious task and many good authors swear by
I like to think that I fit more in the "seat of
the pants" writer category. Indeed, for the most part I'm a genuine
Pantser. I do start with a very general idea of what the book is going to be
all about but a) I don't document my ideas in great details beforehand and b) I
remain totally flexible about the storyline and any other issue concerning the
novel as a matter of fact. I let my characters take over and guide me to where
they want me to go. I feed off the mood of the moment to mold the plot and
storyline. I allow my characters to decide whether they want to play a bigger
part in the story or not. I'm afraid to admit it but when I'm totally immersed
in my writing, I take dictation from my characters more than create ideas on my
own. The best way I can describe my writing process is what some might call it stream of consciousness with a definite
purpose to entertain.
So next time you pick up a book try to guess the
kind of author who wrote the novel. A useful tip is to look for cliff-hangers
at the beginning of the book. Sometimes it's done to mislead you ( in the
murder/ mystery genre for instance), other times to keep you hooked on to the
storyline. But the key in most cases is that the author had a game plan in
place before hand. A cautionary note, however, this so called telltale sign
does not always work. After all good writers are skillful teasers.
The story in The
Nomad's Premonition came to me in a news article about speed traders. I
immediately thought that this subject was a perfect fit for my protagonist Eric
Martin, a former investment banker caught in a dead end job. As soon as I sat
down in front of my computer, Eric kept shouting in my ears "I love it,
keep writing". (What a pain I thought he was at the time, but I'm now glad
that he pushed me so hard). The other characters just popped in when the story needed
them. I had no idea they existed in my mind or anywhere else for that matter.
The plot line emerged out of some unfinished business with my first novel in
the Nomad series--Nomad on the Run.
Nomad's Premonition took almost two years to write and
rewrite, and I did not know from day to day where I was going with it. I just
had to trust my characters and my intuition that something good would come out
of it. What one might guess, I'd a
premonition that I was on to a great story. But above all, I'd so much fun
writing this thriller as a 'Pantser'.
Your comments are always welcome. Please feel free to drop me a note in the Contact Tab section with your thoughts and observations.