Shaking hands with Lethbridge-Stewart

Hi, everyone! I thought this week was a good time to post an update I planned to entitle Update September 2016. That changed when my most exciting news arrived in my inbox this morning. I can’t exactly call this Dark Fiction, but it’s more that side of my writing than anything else, though the tone of the story is fast and light. My short story The Wishing Bazaar is now part of the third series of Lethbridge-Stewart ‘The Brigadier’ of Doctor Who fame. I’ve been keeping this secret for quite some unbearable time. With the press release it’s official:

Series Three Announced! Times Squared for Pre-order!

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My next truly Dark Fiction title Blood Moon will appear in Night to Dawn magazine early next year under my pseudonym of Sharon Kernow. It is one of several from an on-going project of shorts under a theme, of which I’ve already published some stories. I have it in mind to place a few with magazines and then form a collection either through a publisher, should I be able to find one, or dip into self-publishing.

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On the romance side, Snow Angel has been contracted by JMS Books. The new, and one hopes, improved version should be out before the end of the year both in ebook and print. Hard to believe how much my writing has changed. I’m working on drafts of book 2 (which is now extended), and book 3 (completely new/roughly drafted). The re-write came about because when I considered adding a third and much-asked for title, I realised the writing was vastly different. I asked a couple of the fans and they voted for a re-write. The re-release is with JMS mostly because that’s the only way I could obtain print, but because of the good work ethic I’ve seen from the company so far. Others are screaming for work from me, I know. I’m sorry. Life pitches us curves and no one can be more frustrated than I.

I have a schedule I’m diving into. Thanks to everyone who has asked for work and those who have shown incredible patience.

Plot vs Pants

First, an explanation.

A writer who is a ‘plotter’ plans out the course of the story, spends time thinking about the plot, theme, subtext, characterisation, and many other elements ‘before writing’.

A ‘pantser’ sits down at the keyboard with an idea or a model (these are two different things I won’t explain here except to say one is more fully-fledged than the other) and begins to write. ‘Pantsing’ is to ‘fly by the seat of’ (one’s pants), though I prefer to call it organic writing.

I’m (mostly) a pantser, which I’ve come to realise doesn’t mean I don’t plot but having read a reference to Stephen King recently, a proverbial lightbulb went off in my head illuminating the fact that, like King, I’m an intuitive plotter. I am NOT for the record stating at this point in time I do it as well as he does, but here’s hoping one day, preferably soon. Really, that’s the definition of (successful) pantsers — they are intuitive plotters.

Yes, I am able to face the blank page and craft a story with nothing more than a vague idea in mind. I tend to write from beginning to end. I seldom jump around. The story comes to me as if I am reading, and in that respect it appears I’m lucky the way King is fortuitous. We are able to ‘pants’ it. The same cannot be said of every writer, though it doesn’t diminish the effort required, and a simple but painful truth remains: sometimes planning isn’t a bad idea even for pantsers. A story may not work for many reasons. Vital elements may be missing. Or be in the wrong order. Even a good book may benefit from being looked over to check all the important formations of story-telling are present and/or in the right place.

I imagine most writers start out as pantsers, unless they have some form of professional writing background. The majority of writers are readers who range from someone ‘wanting to have a go’ to those who have always dreamed of it being a vocation. Some (the lucky few) will discover they are intuitive, their writing tends to be organic, and they write something good enough to capture a publisher’s interest. Those who aren’t intuitive likely never publish anything, or nothing well-received.

Stories have patterns. Don’t worry if you didn’t realise this. If you’re a reader, you shouldn’t. I was ‘just’ a reader once, though there’s no such thing as ‘just a reader’ to those who love books, who buy them or produce them. A reader should enjoy a book without seeing its framework. The reader isn’t supposed to know the design is there.

Pantsers start writing and either give up or get nowhere (I throw my hands up and confess there are always the often-dreaded exceptions) because they don’t realise this, or they are intuitive and form the shape without realising. Once pantsers become published authors, they may or may not perceive the hidden construction of stories. Some will continue to be intuitive without thinking about it, while some (of which I am one) will begin to spot these layouts.

A note of warning: IMHO recognition of these designs ‘may’ spoil the simple enjoyment of reading somewhat (at least for me). As an author I now read a book more aware of the narrative. I’m able to spot the ‘inciting incident’ (for example). Don’t worry if as a reader you don’t know what that is, but writers should understand. For me, books were more enjoyable when these plot points were ‘invisible’ because as a reader my mind wasn’t tuned in to spot them.

Plotters know stories require an arrangement and they set out to make the task easier for themselves by laying the groundwork beforehand.

To a pantser plotting feels like studying for an exam. A plotter to a pantser can seem like one of those irritating kids in school who enjoyed the study process. Ironically, I was one of those who didn’t overly mind studying — good thing because as a writer there are times when I need to do research.

The trouble is, depending on what level of intuitive grasp the writer has of the subject, the pantser can be the one looking wistfully back, wishing they had spent the hours pouring over the text books in order to obtain a better result, but I’m not advocating either option.

Which is better? This is a simple question with an easy answer: use the one that works for you. Some writers plot, some pants, and some do a mixture of the two, and what’s required can differ from work to work, genre to genre, project to project. The choice often comes down to which the writer finds easier, more natural, or even which he or she can withstand. For some pantsers, plotting can seem torturous. For some plotters, pantsing must seem bewildering and disastrous.

A Pictorial Narrative

I confess I missed last week’s blog. I had my laptop, I had interview access, but I was away on holiday, which also involved some semi-research and it all got a little too much. Started to feel more like work than a break so something had to get overlooked. So this week while I get catch up with everything I thought I’d take you along with me to some of the fun things.

Hard to spot but on the way down spotted all these people floating in the sky. Not bad shots considering we were in a moving car and this wasn’t my best camera.

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    The perfect sunset greeted us as we arrived. Love this sky.

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A lovely stretch of Cornish coastline.

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Minster Church, not easy to get to.

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If in the area it’s a must to visit Davidstow Airfield & Cornwall at War Museum, whether interested in the subject or not. All put together by the exhausting work of volunteers who deserve recognition for their efforts. They’ve taken my box brownie camera to put on display.

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Launceston Castle.

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IMHO English Heritage charge a little too much to get into the castle but it’s worth doing once for the views.

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Love the zoom on my camera.

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