Vision and Betrayal
by Ginger Bolton
Like almost everyone else, I started my first novel with “What if?”
There were really two what ifs.
One: What if that real-life woman didn’t return my call because she had mysteriously disappeared?
Two: What if I started writing, you know, just to see what happened, both to my character and to me? Could I actually stick to writing an entire novel, or was that idea as imaginary as my fictitious character and her search for a missing woman?
I started writing.
That, I’m sorry to say, was the end of my relaxed and comfy existence. My character moved into my brain and took over my life.
I knew what had happened to the real woman. She not only turned up, she brought me an enormous chocolate-chip cookie. I also knew what had happened to the imaginary woman, but my protagonist didn’t, and she was trying very hard, no matter how many obstacles I threw at her, to find out. She nagged and nagged at me to finish her story. Eventually, with my writing-obsessed early mornings and weekends, I did.
But I wasn’t done. I had drafted the original manuscript as a pantser. I started revising. I added scenes. I moved scenes. I embellished scenes. I trimmed them. I polished the entire manuscript and then tore it apart and had to polish it again, over and over . . .
Pantsing was exhilarating and fun.
It also took years.
One of my hobbies (if I can drag myself away from writing and revising) is sewing. Mostly, that means that I like to shop for fabrics. I often find one or several that I cannot possibly resist. I might not know how exactly I want to use the fabrics, so I stash them away and wait for inspiration. That’s kind of like the pantsing version of sewing, which is not to be confused with sewing up a pair of pants, in case you wondered.
Frequently, I know exactly what I want to sew, and I plan it all, complete with pattern, thread, buttons and zipper. Right. That’s like plotting.
So, back to writing. As I said, the manuscripts that I pantsed took a verrrrrry long time.
I was offered contracts for manuscripts that I had not yet written. I couldn’t take years to write them. I had deadlines. I continued pantsing, but in a more organized, structured, and, I have to admit, panicky fashion.
And then I got a new editor. He didn’t mind long outlines, he said. Like twenty pages, he said. I had already written a twenty-page synopsis for the first book in the series when he said that. . .
I had, somehow, edged into more plotting than panstsing.
Now, back to sewing.
There’s a problem. After I’ve planned exactly what I’m going to make with that fabric, that pattern, that thread, those buttons, and that zipper, I often simply stow the ingredients for the project with the other, unplanned fabrics. Unfortunately, visualizing the finished project can be enough. I might never construct it.
Uh-oh. You know where this is heading, right? The more I run my characters and their adventures through my head like a movie, the less I think I need to complete the manuscript.
Plotting was supposed to help, but my imagination had betrayed me.
However, if I actually want to wear a garment I’ve planned, I have to buckle down and finish it.
I definitely want to meet my deadlines, so I do what I do with sewing (when, that is, I actually sew.) I complete the project in logical (for me) steps.
Would I ever just start cutting into fabric with a firm mental picture of the finished product but only a hazy idea of how I would get from yardage to garment? Gulp, yes, I have done that, with dismaying results.
Would I ever just start writing to find out what path I’ll take to the end? I’ve done it and I might do it again, but for now, I have to admit that I’ve transformed myself, more or less by necessity, from a pantser to a plotter. Careful planning can, for me, yield speedier and more satisfying results—who knew?
Besides, I was never that crazy about making pants.
Ginger Bolton writes the Deputy Donut Mysteries—coffee, donuts, cops, danger, and one curious cat . . . SURVIVAL OF THE FRITTERS and GOODBYE CRULLER WORLD have already been published. JEALOUSY-FILLED DONUTS will appear in September 2019, and three more Deputy Donut mysteries are in the works.
Ginger writes surrounded by unfinished knitting, sewing, and crocheting projects. She lives near a yummy donut and coffee shop which she avoids while walking her two rescue dogs, but maybe not other times. As Janet Bolin, she wrote the Threadville Mysteries—murder and mayhem in a village of crafty shops.