“My mantra is ‘Get it down, then get it right.’ Things tend to gel for me as I write…voices, situations. It means a lot of revision down the line, but you can’t revise what isn’t there to begin with.”
“If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right.”
Lucienne Diver is a both a seasoned literary agent and an accomplished author: She’s written what sounds like two rollicking series, Vamped and Latter-day Olympians (luciennediver.com). I came across her inspiring comments while doing online submission research; it led me to a post called “Mantra” she wrote for the site Magical Words (magicalwords.net) in which she described her writing style.:
“I admire those writers who can sit down and plot out an entire novel in advance. I’ve never experienced it, but I imagine all the gut-wrenching, hair tearing uncertainty coming at that stage and the actual writing being a breeze….Me, I have to write to find out where I’m going. I can’t come to know the characters until I write them out and wrestle with their voices and their world views.”
I know the feeling! I’ve gazed longingly at J.K. Rowling’s handwritten flow charts for her Harry Potter series, but that’s not my style. I wrote my way into my children’s historical fantasy and ended up with a jerrybuilt plot that I had to take apart and reengineer.
Lucienne goes on to say that learning how she wrote — and being comfortable with her own process — was the hardest thing for her as a writer: “Giving myself permission to get it down and then get it right, which is my current mantra, was both freeing and terrifying. Doing it that way meant I might actually be (*gasp*) wrong. False starts, scenes that go nowhere, dialogue that doesn’t truly further the plot, places where the tension flags…it’s all there. Everyone goes through it. No one’s first draft is perfect.”
How true! And how important it is to be kind to ourselves: to accept and be comfortable with the approach that works best for us. And to remember that both “pantsers” and “plotters” wrestle with their early drafts. The problems are just different.
When it comes to writing process, it’s any which way you can. Eudora Welty sat at her desk every day from nine to twelve in the morning; Michael Chabon writes in the dead of the night. Balzac guzzled gallons of coffee while penning his novels, but surely Jane Austen imbibed only tea. Truman Capote pounded out his drafts on a typewriter, while Roald Dahl scribbled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory using a pencil.
Let’s also remember that writing is also about leaving our comfort zone and stretch ourselves. So while it may not really be greener on the other side of the fence, we pantsers can always sneak under or leap over to snag a few plotter posies to brighten our prose. Or the other way around. Bravo, Lucienne — write on!