I Hate It When Life Fouls Up My Plans #amwriting

Illness and injury—both minor in that no hospitalisation has been required—have plagued me for the last four weeks. As usual, I’m unwilling to admit that I’m not up to my own standards of performance.

Image courtesy of kdshutterman at http://FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I haven’t been able to keep up the pace I’ve set myself on finishing my current novel—which makes me frantic. Being frantic leads me into a very slippery place with respect to food. And yes, I slipped with respect to food. So in addition to illness for 4 weeks and injury for a week and a half, I’ve been out of ketosis for a week until yesterday. As a result, I added wildly varying cognition due to blood sugar swings to the distractions of discomfort and general malaise. Thus, I’ve put myself even further behind my goals.

I wish I would stop shooting myself in the foot—that I could stop doing things that I know will make a somewhat bad situation worse. But I’m on the way back up. Antibiotics have done their job (at last), the injury has gotten to the “itchy” stage, and I’ve returned to a keto diet, hopefully to stay for a long while.


Update: Scrivener Special Abilities on New iPhones (XS, XS Max, & XR) @scrivenerapp

Today was the annual Apple announcement of shiny new iPhones. If you’re a Scrivener iOS user, and considering a new phone, you may wonder which of the new iPhone XS and XS models will display the Scrivener binder in landscape mode.

The plus-size iPhones display the Scrivener project binder in a small sidebar.

Literature and Latte have said that iOS Scrivener uses the iOS size classes to determine whether a device can display the Binder in landscape mode. The key to this is whether the device has “Regular” width in landscape mode. According to the size classes just published for the new iPhones, the following new models have landscape regular width and therefore will display the Binder in Scrivener:

  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone XR

Other models that display the Binder:

  • iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPhone 6S Plus
  • iPhone 6 Plus

Note that the new iPhone XS (not Max) will not display the Binder in the sidebar, just as the older iPhone X did not.

Thoughts on Bullet Journalling #amwriting

Bullet journalling is a popular concept now. Be creative with your personal information system! Free yourself from the tyranny of electronics! My ADHD brain said, “Oooh! Something new and shiny!” So I bought myself a beautiful journal and expensive pens, and started in.

Fortunately, the experiment didn’t last too long.

An example bullet journal index, from BulletJournal.com. The problem with this is that I have to find the index page that contains the pointer to the information I want…

Bullet journalling works on the same principles as the old Franklin-Covey paper system I was taught in the 80’s—and the principles have probably been around a lot longer than that. Write things down on they day they happen, or are supposed to happen. Write an index for them every month. Refer back to related things as you write. They work for many people—but not for me.

Paper doesn’t beep, you see.

Paper is cool, it’s sensuous, and I can spend lots of time and money finding just the right journal and the perfect set of pens for my stuff. I’d love to handwrite all my organisational notes free-form on paper, but… I have to have an alarm set to remind me to update them or look at them. And I can’t find things that I need as reference, because I can’t remember what category I filed them under or when they happened, so I have to search all the index pages, and then all the other pages, too. I can scan them into Evernote to make them searchable, which begs the question: Why bother with paper at all?

If I want the benefits of handwriting and a free-form personal info system (with elaborately decorated F-bombs in) I can use an electronic free-form notetaking app such as my favourite, Noteshelf, which is searchable online (when connected to Evernote) and can be tied in to various automatic cattle-prod-zap systems I’ve already set up so as I won’t neglect it. And Evernote’s search functions mean that I don’t ever have to try to write indexes, or try to find something via a handwritten index. (Yuck.) Seriously, categorisation is difficult for me, as it is for many with ADHD. Remembering when something happened is also difficult. The beauty of Evernote is that I can search by anything I remember about a note, without having to wonder what category I put it in, what tags I stuck on it, or when I added it. (I found some writing notes under “Recipes” recently. No, they weren’t about food. I don’t know how they got there.)

I do better with creating a structure that’s both external and automated, so that once I decide to do a thing and get it into my system, it periodically punches me in the face. Eventually, it will get done, or I decide not do to it, and delete it. Meanwhile I have rewards (via Habitica) and punishments (via Beeminder) built-in to help me keep on track.

So no, no elaborate paper tracking systems for me—at least not until they make paper that beeps.

The Short Story is Away! #amwriting

Remember that short story I told you about, back in March? (The Short Story Rolls Forward)? The one that was accepted to the NaNo Los Angeles anthology in April? (Short Story Accepted!) The anthology is named Shadowed Doorways, my story “Fire Assurance” just passed final proofread, and it and the anthology should be actually in print Real Soon Now!

What’s that I hear you asking? Four months? Why did it take four months?

Mostly, the editorial staff at NaNo Los Angeles are all volunteers. They have day jobs. People left. People became ill. And my story went through four different editors: a story editor, a copy editor, a proofreader, and the chief editor herself.

In many ways, my story is much better than it was when I submitted it. But I would be lying if I said the process wasn’t at times frustrating in the extreme.

The first thing I had to realise is that if I had to explain that what they read is not what I meant, I was at fault. I did not convey what I meant to convey with my words. The second thing I had to accept is that subplots do not fit into a 4,000 word story. Subplots are for longer works.

I had to learn when it’s acceptable to push back, when and how to offer an alternative to their suggested edits, and how to simply refuse some of the edits.

I learned the frustration of dealing with “publishing conventions.” Self-publishers such as myself can ignore certain things that books meant to be published conventionally must toe the line on. Some of them were news to me. Others—well, I just had no idea that things were so inflexible.

One thing was very nice: I absolutely was held to deadlines. That’s an external discipline that I wish I could duplicate in my other work. And my chief editor, Elisabeth Ashlin, was a sweetheart with a bullwhip—one of the best people to work with under a tight deadline I’ve ever encountered.

So—when Shadowed Doorways is Really Published, I’ll let you know! Real Soon Now, for sure!

A Long, Cool Monitor in a Black Frame, or Game Tech Wins Again #amwriting

I was already convinced by gaming headsets. Who cares if they have LED decorations that pulsate in poisonous green? They are comparatively inexpensive, have excellent noise attenuation, great microphones, and decent sound, for far less than, say, a Bose noise-cancelling headset.

Well, I have been converted by LG’s UltraWide gaming monitors, specifically the LG 25UM58-P.

The LG 25UM58-P UltraWide monitor

When I first encountered one of these petite (25 inches diagonal) monsters I thought it looked so strange that I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want it. But it was part of the shared monitor pool at my co-working venue (Kleverdog), and I decided to borrow it one day. Then I started borrowing it every time I went to Kleverdog and someone else hadn’t checked it out first. Finally, I asked for one for a wedding anniversary present. (Yes, ok, other women ask for diamonds. I ask for computer hardware. Hubby is used to this by now. Every once in a while he asks if I’d like a nice diamond instead, but this time he simply, charmingly delivered.)

It is nothing short of amazing to work with a nominally standard HD resolution (1080p) monitor that is so crisp. Not only is it crisp, it’s crisp in CinemaScope. Seriously. This beast has an aspect ratio of 21:9. CinemaScope’s narrowest aspect ratio was 2.35:1—or 21.15:9, less than one percent wider.

Crisp is wonderful, and as for wide, it’s like this:

Evernote and Wikipedia share the screen. Each has all the horizontal space it can easily use.

Scrivener has a full-width editor pane, a full-width outliner pane, and still has room to display both the Binder and the Inspector wider than I ever displayed them on my old monitor.

All my communications apps share the screen. Again, each has all the horizontal space it can easily use.

Technical difficulties:

The older model 25-inch LG UltraWide I used at Kleverdog had a DisplayPort input, which worked perfectly with my MacBook Air 11’s Thunderbolt 2 port. But newer LG models only have HDMI input. With a proper cable, HDMI 4K to Thunderbolt 2 (rare, but they can be had), this would not be a problem. But I have only a 1k HDMI cable, which connects to my Mac via a Mini DisplayPort (not Thunderbolt) to DVI adapter, connected to a DVI to HDMI adapter, all of ancient enough vintage that 2560 x 1080 support at 60 Hz refresh rate is out of the question.

The solution: A little utility called SwitchResX. This tool is not for the faint of heart, because it asks permission to modify your MacOS system files, even if only the resolution store. Fortunately, I found a complete set of instructions, Running 2560×1080 on LG 29UM57-P on an old MacBook Pro OSX El Capitan. I had to follow each step exactly, but the happy result was a set of 53 Hz (down from 60 Hz, but really I can’t tell the difference) resolutions that I can use with my old cables. So now my desk at home is graced with a monitor that is physically smaller than my old 1920 x 1080 ViewSonic, but which is so much easier on the eyes and more versatile at displaying apps that every day I marvel. “Wow! I can read that! And that! And that! I can make my text smaller!”

OK, I’m easily amused. But still. A long, cool, monitor.

Back to Writing Gear Basics #amwriting

I have a regrettable tendency to over-complicate things. Mostly it happens due to impulsivity, made worse by ADHD. I’ve recently taken stock of my customary writing gear—in particular, the load I carry in my backpack. In order to make it practical to walk as much as possible to coffee shops and to the train stations to my part-time office in Chinatown, I’m doing a thorough overhaul and downsizing of what gear I choose to pack.

The upswing in gear started when I discovered Duet Display back in 2016. Not that Duet Display isn’t a fine, fine piece of software; it’s just that I decided I needed to have two displays all the time, so I needed to schlep my iPad and a cable along all the time, and I always needed to be able to plug the MacBook in, because—well, the MacBook assumes it’s supposed to charge the iPad, even when the iPad has more battery life left than said MacBook. So I had to take the MacBook power supply, and I might as well add another cable to charge my phone, and why not take my external hard drive? It only weighs a few ounces…

As of last week, for almost any writing expedition, I’d take:

  • MacBook Air 11
  • External hard drive for backups
  • Charger for the MacBook
  • Extension cord
  • iPhone with stand
  • iPad (mostly for use as a second screen) plus folding screen cover/stand
  • 2 Lightning cables for the iDevices
  • USB 3 hub so I can plug everything into the MacBook at once if needed
  • Bluetooth stylus
  • Charger for the stylus (just in case)
  • Non-electronic backup stylus (just in case)
  • 2 Bluetooth keyboards, one each for the iPad and iPhone (just in case I decided I wanted to work on the phone or the tablet—or both—instead of on the MacBook)
  • Mini USB cable to charge the keyboards (just in case)
  • Bluetooth mouse with extra batteries (see above)
  • Noise cancelling headphones with extra batteries (ditto)

When I got where I was going it would take me ten to fifteen minutes to set up and later the same to pack.

I started thinking about this when I realised that I almost never actually used the iPad any more as a second screen. I found a little-known feature of Scrivener, available even in version 2.x. This setting works in MacOS full-screen mode (as opposed to Composition Mode), and enables the Binder and the Inspector to slide in from the sides when I move my mouse to the left or right sides of the screen, respectively. This effectively increases the screen area available for Scrivener by nearly 40%. I wasn’t using my iPad because this feature is disabled if a second monitor is present. Also, I’ve become skilled at using a split full screen on the Mac, for those times when I’d like to have, say, Aeon Timeline on the screen at the same time as Scrivener. (Mostly though, I can’t do that because AT can’t sync a Scrivener project that’s open.)

Slide-in panels increase Scrivener’s apparent screen size.

I still need the mouse as it’s hard for me to touch-type on the MacBook without accidentally hitting the touch pad which moves the insertion cursor, with hilarious but irritating results. (I’ve set up the mouse to disable the touch pad.) When I’m at my part-time office, I can borrow a big monitor from the monitor pool, and then a BT keyboard comes in handy. But I’ve dropped the following from my list, and my pack feels a lot lighter.

Items dropped:

  • External hard drive for backups
  • stand for iPhone
  • iPad plus folding screen cover/stand
  • 1 Lightning cable
  • USB 3 hub
  • Charger for the stylus
  • 1 Bluetooth keyboard (keeping the one that has a built-in iPhone stand, thus avoiding duplication)

When I’m going to my office rather than to a coffee shop, I can also leave behind the extension cord. If I’m going to a coffee shop I can leave behind the second BT keyboard. If I’m only going for an hour or two, I’ve taken to just packing the iPhone, a keyboard, a couple of cables, a USB adapter—and the headphones. I might see if I can come up with a really lightweight and compact extension cord—alternatively I might carry a small external battery. But that’s it.

Where does this leave my poor lonely iPad? I’m not sure. I really like its bigger screen, but I can’t use it as a phone. 95% of what I can do with the iPad can be done on the iPhone 6s Plus’ large screen (for a phone) as well, and the rest can be worked around. And there are many things that I can do with the MacBook that absolutely cannot be done on iPad (or iPhone.) Sometimes I go days without opening the iPad’s cover. I suppose I should sell the silly hunk of aluminium and simplify my life, but as you can tell, I’m emotionally attached to it.

A problem for another day.

Camp NaNoWriMo July Recap, or the Joy of Healing #amwriting #campnanowrimo

I started July 2018 Camp NaNoWriMo full of hope, and with a goal of 50,000 words. Sadly, I did not start Camp NaNoWriMo full of carbohydrates—instead 1 July 2018 was the day I started a ketogenic diet. Carb withdrawal kicked the [CENSORED] out of my plans.

In the past, I might have given up and had a donut. (Wait, who am I kidding? It would have been lots of donuts. Many, many donuts. I would have moved into the nice all-night donut shop with all the power outlets so as to finish my 50K words…) But this time I decided my health was more important.

(Oh, yes, in the middle of this was my birthday.)

As the month moved on, two things happened:

  • Carb withdrawal is not forever, it just seems like it while you’re in it. It was over in two and a half weeks.
  • The final two rounds of editing for my short story arrived with very tight deadlines.

I needed a boost to get me writing, and hey! Camp NaNoWriMo kept sending these nice emails saying it wasn’t too late. I could still start and revise my goal. So I went back to Camp, revised my goal downwards, and counted both my editing time (at 1,000 words per hour) and actual words added to my novel. And I won. More importantly, I met my editor’s deadline.

Yes, I won. I damn well deserve it.

(Oh, yes, my birthday celebration was wonderful without cake.)

It would have been easy to feel sorry for myself last month. I didn’t get to finish my original goal. My birthday candles were stuck onto a banana, and I didn’t even get to eat the banana. Some of my other goals were derailed. It’s this stupid keto diet’s fault. Poor me! Poor me! Pour me a double chocolate malted.

I didn’t go that way, though. What’s that about?

What it’s about is actually taking care of myself. Treating myself with the care and affection and gentle discipline I would lavish on a dog. Treating myself with the kindness I would happily show a sick friend. Would I insist that a friend abandon a food plan that might save her life for the sake of a 50K word count? Or a birthday party?

If I would, I would be one crappy friend.

This is not the first time I have been through substance withdrawal. The first time was withdrawal from alcohol addiction—I got sober in June, 1978. I haven’t had a drink since. Thanks to my forty years of sobriety, I have a few harsh words for those who need to use a ketogenic diet—who are facing the very real and life-threatening conditions which a keto diet can treat or aid in treating—but find it just too hard.

Learn to hurt, baby.

Learn that your life is more important than whether your Mom takes your refusal to eat her famous pasta dish personally. Yes, it hurts when she gets ticked off or bursts into tears. Learn to hurt.

Learn that your life is more important than the “treats” in the office break room. Yes, it hurts when you see others eating what you’d like to, and doing so with no apparent ill-effects. You’re comparing your insides to their outsides. Learn to hurt.

Learn that your life is more important than a freaking piece of birthday cake. That it’s more important that the latest dessert at your favourite restaurant. That’s it’s more important that eating what everyone else is eating. That it’s more important than what other people think of you.

Yes, having that refined carbohydrate goodie would ease the pain, take away the social disapproval, satisfy your curiosity, mollify your mom. It would also mean that you would be refunded ALL the misery that you started the ketogenic diet to avoid.

I’ve been alcohol-free, one day at a time, for forty years. I’ve been refined carbohydrate-free thirty days, one day at a time.

I can do anything for one day. Anything. I’ll bet you can, too. Learn to live through today’s hurt to find the joy of healing.

How I Learned to Stop Fighting and Love Ketosis #amwriting

A year ago I got a diagnosis of pre-diabetes and obesity. No problem, I thought; I can just go back on a strict Paleo diet and all those troublesome blood test results, and the blood pressure that is stubbornly on the edge of low-grade hypertension will wind back down as they did the last time I cleaned up my food.

Starting a ketogenic diet was a good thing.
Withdrawal from carbohydrates was a bad thing for my blog.

Fast-forward to June (last month). I was having blurred vision, and phantom pain in my feet. My rheumatoid arthritis was out of control. I was afraid to check my blood pressure because I knew damned well what I would find. And the scale was not my friend.

Obviously, what I was doing wasn’t working. And I wasn’t on a Paleo (or more correctly, an ancestral) food regime. I’d start, but I’d find some trivial excuse to have “just one serving” of rice. Or cake. Or French fries. Or donuts… (Yes, plural. There is no such thing as one donut. It’s a complete myth.)

I refuse to take up the crown of the Queen of Denial (that was my mother), but I certainly deserve the title Silver Dragon, Princess of Denial.

Toward the end of last month, Younger Son told me that he was starting a ketogenic diet. He and I had not been diet buddies, really, since we had both gradually abandoned ancestral eating. (I had tried to be diet buddies with Hubby, but… it’s weird. He’s lost more than 100 pounds, but he can have a cookie. Singular. I’ve seen him do it. I’m convinced that trying to be diet buddies with Hubby is a Bad Move.)

So at the end of June I started a ketogenic diet, based on the guidelines I found at Nerdfitness. The idea is to deliberately put your body into ketosis, a state in which it runs using fat rather than glucose as its primary fuel. 30 net grams of carbohydrate (carbs), tops. 70+ grams of protein a day, add fats to reach target calories per day. I eliminated gluten. I eliminated grains. No starchy stuff, not even yams. No fruit—the carbs are all veggies. The one thing that keeps my current food from being ancestral is cow milk products, and I’m working on getting those out of my foods as well.

Objective Results after one month:

  • 9.4 pounds lost
  • Blood pressure normal (checked at the doctor’s office today)
  • Coffee down from an entire 12-cup-pot per day habit to one cup in the morning—without trying
  • Average sleep per night increased from 6 to 7 hours per night
  • Arthritis is noticeably less painful—I no longer need NSAIDs for pain control

This came at a cost; for the first two days I was sick with diarrhea, and I spent the subsequent two weeks in the notorious Keto Brain Fog, also known as carbohydrate withdrawal. Yes, it’s a thing. Blogging under those conditions proved impractical; I have two half-finished posts in the queue. They will remain half-finished, because they are as foggy as my brain was.

But not only do I now have the above objective benefits, I also have these…

Subjective Benefits After One Month:

  • Blurred vision and phantom extremity pain gone
  • Lots of energy, especially in the mornings. Only late at night do I now feel dragged out (which, when you think about it, is a good thing.)
  • I am almost never hungry. (Many days I have to force myself to meet my carb and protein goals, and eat enough fats to meet the MyFitnessPal minimum calorie goal.)
  • My ADHD is noticeably less troublesome. (Despite two weeks lost to brain fog, I completed two rounds of editing for my short story, corrected significant structural problems in my novel-in-progress, and started making the word count go up again.)


I’ve accepted that it’s likely that I will be on a ketogenic Paleo diet indefinitely. This is not a hardship. Going back to the symptoms above—that would be a hardship. Further, moderation and I do not seem to get along. Once I start expanding what I can eat, I don’t seem to be able to stop. I can live with that.

Your Mileage May Vary.

I don’t want to get into religious wars about this. Not everyone wants to even try a ketogenic diet. Others will be convinced that I (or they) would be better off with a less-restrictive food plan. I’m certainly not trying to convert anyone! It’s just my experience. Apply it to yourself at your own risk.

Useful Ketogenic Diet Texts and Tools

(N.B.: I am not in any affiliate program. I receive no financial benefit should you purchase any item or service I mention in my blog, other than from my own writing.)

  • The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf.

    The original text I used to switch to an ancestral way of eating four years ago. Details of how to eat ancestrally without being dogmatic, and a lot of nutrition research references.
  • Wired to Eat by Robb Wolf.

    Robb adjusts his recommendations (!) based on ten years of new research in the nutrition field. He has an entirely new chapter on why, how, and whether to start a ketogenic ancestral diet. Again, research references abound.
  • Nerdfitness.

    Site owner Steve Kamb provides a lot of information on diet and exercise. He also discusses ancestral and ketogenic diets (which are NOT mutually exclusive) in an easy-to-understand and humorous way.
  • MyFitnessPal.

    I don’t know about you, but none of this works for me without actually keeping track of what I eat. All of it. You can do it with pencil and paper, but why? MFP, despite the obnoxious ads, is the service that will connect with the most other services, has apps on all the devices, and a huge nutritional database. My warning: be careful which version of, oh, onions (for example) you log. Some have fiber grams listed and some don’t. In order to know your net carbs, you have to know the fiber content.

Aeon Timeline & Scrivener #amwriting #Scrivener #AeonTimeline

Aeon Timeline provides event duration management that Scrivener lacks

One of my readers asked:

Hello. I’ve never heard of aeon timeline! What is it? How do you use it alongside scrivener? How does it benefit your writing?

Excellent questions, all.

What is Aeon Timeline?

Aeon Timeline is an application available for Mac, Windows, and iOS. The blurb from the developers’ website reads:

> The timeline tool for creative writing, project & case management
> Designed for writers from its very inception, Aeon Timeline helps you plan, write and edit your story
> …

It goes on to describe benefits to project managers and lawyers. To an extent, a writer (particularly a self-published writer) is also a project manager, and certainly lawyers can be writers, too! But I’ll focus on my use with Scrivener to write fiction.

How do you use it alongside Scrivener?

Aeon Timeline events can sync to a Scrivener project. In particular, “tags” in Aeon Timeline are “Keywords” in Scrivener documents, and Aeon Timeline colours are Scrivener document labels. Event names sync with Scrivener document titles, and event summaries sync with Scrivener synopses. For other event properties in Aeon Timeline, you have the option to create custom metadata in your Scrivener project, and sync those properties as well. These include start date, end date, event arc, and participants. (These are the event properties from the default Aeon Timeline fiction template that I use. There are more that I ignore.)

You can do it one of either two ways:

If you’re a pre-planner:

Start in Aeon Timeline. Develop your characters, set up story arcs, and work out your outline as timed events. Then, when you’re ready to start writing,

  1. Create your new project in Scrivener, save and close it.
  2. Go back to Aeon Timeline, and select “Scrivener project” from its Sync menu.
  3. In the Sync pane that appears, under Warnings, right-click the events you want to have in Scrivener and add to Scrivener.
If you do minimal advance planning:

Start in Scrivener and build your structure in the way you’re most comfortable. If (or when) the timing of events begins to get confused in your mind, or you believe you’d benefit from seeing things laid out linearly with durations,

  1. Creat a new timeline in Aeon Timeline.
  2. Select “Scrivener project” from its Sync menu.

How does it benefit your writing?

It depends on your working style. I know some people use it instead of outlining in order to see a graphic representation of their novel in chronological order as they plan, before they ever write a word of body text. Myself, well, as I’ve discussed, I’m not so much a detailed planner. But in general, it allows you to create characters, story arcs, and events (which can be imported from, and thereafter synced to, Scrivener.) I myself will use it once I get into the nitty gritty of writing, to keep track of such things as “OK, if this all started in early November, how long would this have taken? How about this next thing, here? No, wait… that’s a Sunday. That venue wouldn’t be open on a Sunday… so when did this have to start? What day will this next thing start?”

And so forth. Since at one level the stories I write are mysteries, timing of events becomes important. So here’s a timeline of a novella I’ve published:

A portion of my massive timeline for my Fraser and Spencer series

It takes place over two weeks in June of 1880, in London. This image only includes the main storyline, with backstory and villain actions “offscreen” displayed in different arcs. I personally use labels in Scrivener for status (and don’t use the status metadata at all. But if you use it, it’s pretty easy to add an event property and sync it with Status in Scrivener.)

I had to think about such things as:

  • How long would it take someone to cross a portion of London on foot in 1880?
  • How about in a cab? (Often slower, due to traffic. Los Angeles is nothing new under the sun.)
  • What time would servants be returning from their Sunday half-holiday?

Aeon Timeline is designed to make it easer to keep things like that straight. Afterwards, as I described above, the dates and times I decide on can be saved with the Scrivener documents to which they refer. So when I’m writing, I don’t make mistakes like having folks set out across the city in the morning, when it’s already afternoon…

It’s not for everyone—-I understand that. But if you think visually and want the duration of things clearly displayed, it’s a godsend.

One other thing I do is import the timeline into Scrivener’s research folder as an alias. That way I can view the timeline’s QuickLook in Scrivener, and click on the Edit button to launch it in Aeon Timeline.

Musings of a Half-Pantsed Writer #amwriting

I have come to the conclusion that if there is anything about the writing process, anything at all, that is different between two writers, they will start a war over it. Since there are no two writers who have exactly the same process, that means our profession—er, craft—um, art—whatever the freak you want to call it—(not taking sides here) is at war with itself all the time.

To pants or not to pants?

I just became aware that there is a faction of fiction writers, far more comfortable than I with planning their novels extensively in advance, who think that those of us who are less comfortable with plotting, are snobs. Well, okay, elitists. I—writing urban fantasy mysteries and hard science fiction—am an elitist, because I am reputed to think that I am more literary and creative than they, because I write by the seat of my pants rather than planning my story in advance. I wander all over the page at great and confusing length, exasperating readers, and yet expect critical praise and commercial success for my maunderings.

Wow. I thought it meant that I am easily distracted (true), quickly bored (also true), and unable to organise my way out of a wet paper bag (too damned true).

I am full of envy and admiration for those who can plan a story in advance, in detail, write it quickly, and find an eager readership. But not so a fellow pantser, who in fact does look down on plotters as producing predictable (or even boring) work that nevertheless sells.

Well, yes, that’s kind of the point. Like it or not, humans are wired to respond to stories in a certain way. Write a story that hits those response points, and you stand a chance of getting some sales. There is nothing wrong or bad about that.

Let’s go back to Sturgeon’s Law, here. Theodore Sturgeon, popular science fiction writer of the 1960’s, famously said, “90% of everything is crud.”

90% of all fiction is crud, whether plotted, pantsed, or dictated by divine intervention straight to the writer’s keyboard. Whether mine, yours, or Barack Obama’s. Of the remaining 10%, 9% is merely adequate. Only about 1% has a chance of standing the test of time and being relevant to our great-grandchildren.

If I can write fiction that beguiles a reader’s mind for a few hours, of such quality that he does not regret having paid the price of a latte for it, I’ve passed into the top 10%. Whether it’s too predictable for some or it wanders too much for others, it serves the purpose of fiction. Not crud.

Sure, I’d like to write enough of it, and have enough readers, that the cumulative latte-equivalents mount up to some decent cash. And if I want to do that, I’m going to need a bit a crapload more organisation and plotting.

That’s fine. Right now, my fiction is half-pantsed—neither thoroughly planned nor completely unplanned. But I’m working on it.