Bungee Jumping Naked, aka The (Chaotic) Deb Linda Approach to Plotting

Boy, what my sister Debs must think of me.

Just because I’m an admitted pantser (or should that be “pantster”? I mean, I don’t go around pantsing fellow writers or anything … nah, pantser just looks better), and made one little reference to Bungee jumping in the comments on Tuesday, they’re tweeting stuff like this and this about me.

Not that I can blame them. I mean, I suppose I do have a … how shall I put it? let’s see … somewhat naughty take on a lot of subjects. What can I say? Innuendo is inherently amusing. (Well, to me, anyway. Your mileage may vary.)

So, yes I happen to find the analogy of Bungee jumping naked to be an apt descriptor of my writing style. I get an idea, I strip it of restraints, and I plunge. You should try it — it’s exhilarating.

(Analogically speaking, of course, because damn. I would never Bungee jump in real life, clothed or unclothed. I mean, come on. Mental fearlessness differs hugely from physical fearlessness.)

Anyhoo, a while back, on my own blog, I explained how I write. Since “writing” encompasses “plotting,” I thought I’d share it here.

(Hey, I’ve already explained that I’m a green blogger—I recycle when I can. *grin*)

 

Here’s what I said then, and it still applies:

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If I actually have anything organized enough to be called a “process,” I suppose I would label it:

Controlled CHAOS!*

Because when creativity strikes, it is a rather chaotic process for me. When an idea bubbles up I chase it around my head for a while.

I purposefully do not write it down, because I figure if the idea isn’t compelling enough to stick with me in this embryonic phase, it’s not worth the paper and ink. Or the hard drive space. (Yes, I have lost ideas this way. Would they have made good books? Huh. Guess I’ll never know.)

If after a week or two the idea just won’t go away, if characters appear, spinning micro-fantasies in my head at odd hours of the day and night, then I start to write.

At the beginning.

Chapter 1, page 1. Just as if I were reading instead of writing. In fact, that’s how I like to think of my writing–as interactive reading. It’s more fun that way.

And then I continue until I reach the end. Linear Linda, that’s me.

See, I’m a “pantser.” A writer who doesn’t outline. Sure, I have a vague, big-picture idea of what’s going to happen, but the details remain obscure until I reach them. I want them to surprise me.

(I tried to outline a book once. Very precise, very organized. As soon as I knew for sure what was going to happen, I got bored with it and quit. Which was a pretty good indication the method wasn’t for me.)

Of course, sometimes the surprises I run across with my process mean I have to go back and tweak the earlier chapters, but that’s okay. Tweakage is fun.

Working this way also means it’s tough for me to achieve a consistent output. My daily word count varies from -5000 (a personal best for hacking out stuff that just wasn’t going to fit) to +3500 or so. Mostly it hovers between one and two thousand. Not blazing fast, but it’ll get the job done.

Since I tweak as I go, as soon as I finish the “first” draft I’m pretty much ready to send it off to my fantastic critique partners and beta readers. They may have had a small taste of it along the way, but mostly I’d rather they read it whole, so they can give me an overall impression of the book as a complete entity before they start pouncing on what tends to be a prodigious number of typos. (Those beasties multiply in cyberspace, I swear.)

I take whatever they tell me to heart. They are that good. Now, I don’t necessarily follow all their suggestions–for one thing, these amazingly brilliant women don’t always *gasp* agree, so that would be impossible–but I give them all serious consideration.

After incorporating whatever changes I’ve decided will work, I do one last run to make sure no inconsistencies have been introduced. If they have, I fix them.

Voila! A book is born.

That’s it. Basically, writing a book is simple. But not easy.

Best of luck with yours.


*CHAOS! = Creativity Happening Again, Oh Snap! (What? You thought I was going to use a different S-word, didn’t you? Well, I can be polite. Sometimes. So there.)

 

~*~*~*~

 

Really, when you think about it, my new analogy of Naked Bungee Jumping fits together pretty well with my old Controlled CHAOS paradigm. I mean, seriously, what is Bungee jumping naked if not controlled chaos?

 

So, where does your writing style (or lifestyle in general) fall? Do you tend toward order or chaos?

(Of course, what we really want to know is, do you Bungee jump—er, write—naked? Do feel free to answer  both.)

40 thoughts on “Bungee Jumping Naked, aka The (Chaotic) Deb Linda Approach to Plotting

    • Well, bear in mind, I do a lot of things with my writing I wouldn’t dream of doing in real life. 😉

  1. Believe, it or not, I just wrote a post about this very same thing, not to appear until next week. What’s really scary, is we both have almost the exact same method of writing. Exactly. Well, I guess great minds do think alike.

  2. You never disappoint, do you, Deb Linda?! I love it!

    I can think of no better picture–or analogy–to wrap up this plotting week. After all the index cards and the outlines and the thumbnails, just dive in, baby! (Just make sure to hold on to all your parts 😉 )

  3. I have never bungee jumped. I prefer to jump from bridges and cliffs without any attachments, thank you very much.

    I’m also a pantser, but as I prepare to tackle a pretty tight drafting schedule for the rest of the year, I plan to try outlining. Nothing detailed, though, just a vague “this happens, then this” so the details still happen later. I love how you describe it has the details “surprising you.”

    Have a good weekend!

    • Aaah, I see. Jumping cordless. YOU are a real hard-ass, my dear. 😉

      Hope your vague “outlining” works well for you. I keep telling myself I need to try that, too, just for the sake of surviving deadlines. Who knows? Maybe if I keep it shadowy enough, I can fool my subconscious into working for me in spite the dreaded specter of “organization.”

  4. I’m also a pantser. I need to get serious though and start sitting down and writing more often. More discipline! 🙂 Love the analogy of the naked bungee jumping…made me smile.

  5. My writing, and my life, could best be described as “organized chaos,” but I like the image of naked bungee-jumping better. But only the image. Ain’t no way I have any interest in plunging off a bridge with a glorified rubber band hooked onto my ankles. I mean, how do they quality test control those things? How do they know when it’s time to retire out that sucker? (Oops, sorry, ma’am. Looks like this thing’s a little overstretched. Are you okay? Ma’am? Ma’am…?)

    • “Looks like this thing’s a little overstretched.”

      LOL! See, if I ever tried naked Bungee jumping in real life, I’d be afraid they weren’t talking about the cord when they said that. 😉

      • I thought it was a bit of a flop (pardon the pun). It would have been much more efcifteve if the bungee jumping girls were wearing the bra and especially brave in the middle of U.K winter. I’m sure you’ll agree Winston?

  6. I’m a pantser (I think that’s obvious, given my nature), but being one causes a bit of trouble with consistency. When I write through a book for the first time, I never write down notes, so I have to go back and reread for continuity errors, etc. It’s a pain, but I’ve tried the whole “outline” thing and I just got bored. Even in college I could NEVER outline thesis papers. Read, sit down, write, have Hubs edit, done. 🙂

    • Handy having a husband who edits for you. 😉

      I think with writing, as with life, it’s more fun to leave room for surprises. 🙂

  7. My process is almost exactly the same as yours, except I do jot down story ideas. But the rest…the same to a T. I sit down and start writing what the voices whisper. I tweak as I go, so, yes, what I call a 1st draft isn’t really. By that time I’ve read through it numerous times and and made changes (more than once) along the way. I’d say my output is about the same as yours too. And boy does it vary! I knew there was a reason we got along:)

    • I always knew you were smart! *grin* And, yeah, when you delete almost as much as you add, the average word count can really suck.

  8. I’m a geek – a total linear thinker. So imagine how surprised I was to discover that I’m incapable of plotting. Outlines and index cards… bo-o-o-ring!

    My process is almost exactly like yours. When an idea or a scene gets too irresistible, I pick a starting point, figure out roughly where I want my characters to be in the end, and then throw them into a room and see what they do.

    I usually have a few plot points that I plan to hit along the way. Usually I hit them, but sometimes my characters go in a totally different direction, and then I have to catch up. That’s what makes it fun – I don’t know how the book is going to end until I get there. It’s like reading, only better!

    The only catch is, I can’t finalize the beginning until I’ve written the whole book, because I can’t figure out where it starts until I know how it ends. Makes it a little hard to issue the advance chapters…

    • True about those early chapters–they change along the way. A lot. But since I love to tweak, edit, and rewrite entirely, the method seems to works for me.

  9. One of my critique partners bungee jumps naked…with her writing, that is. I need clothes. And to know just how long I’m gonna bounce. And who’s in charge of me while I’m hanging out there like a fool. And, and, and….

    I preplan and have a timeline and know generally what’s going on from day to day. But what actually happens on those days is all new as I write.

    • LOL! As long as you leave room for some surprises, I suppose knowing how long you’re going to bounce isn’t always a bad thing. 😉

  10. Yep, I’m a naked bungee jumper, too (formerly a pantser, but yeah, NBJ sounds way more fun). Your way of writing sounds very close to mine, and you also employ what I like to call “the leapfrog technique”, where I write a bit, edit, write some more, edit the last couple of chapters, write even more, edit the last chapters, and so on until it’s done and a fairly clean draft. I’d like to thank my horrible memory for making this technique necessary!

    • Joanne, that’s a great topic too, we will discuss down the road (I think?) of how we edit–whether we pound out that first draft without looking back–or if we, as you say, leapfrog–up and back, up and back…

    • The leapfrog technique — I like that! Yeah, that’s just what I do. Editing the previous day’s output is a kind of warm-up exercise for me before I begin composing the new stuff. And, yes, it does help with that memory thing. 😉

  11. Your process sounds a lot like mine, right down to stalling when I already know the ending. Basic idea, and jot down notes about where I’m headed as I go, but not a complete outline.

    As for Naked Bungee Jumping? I’m ok with the naked part, if it’s warm enough and the spectators are limited. But Bouncing at the end of a bungee cord makes my neck hurt.

    • Jotting notes is good. I leave myself messages in a spiral notebook as I’m writing. Stuff like “Remember what time of day it is, you idiot!” and “You’re going to have to decide whodunnit eventually–get on that!” Guess you could say it’s a kind of, um, motivational notebook.

  12. I just got very excited reading this: I purposefully do not write it down, because I figure if the idea isn’t compelling enough to stick with me in this embryonic phase, it’s not worth the paper and ink.

    THAT IS EXACTLY HOW I THINK, but I’ve never met another writer who says this! They all carry notebooks and look at me like I’m crazy for not having a notebook by the bed. I have a bunch of blank ones people have given me!

    Actually, I pretty much write the same way as you all the way through. Friday Debs Unite!

  13. I’m still trying both out but I have to say that pantsing with a basic story in mind seems to work best for me.
    I’ve never thought of writing naked but now that you mention it…

  14. Ah! Naked bungee jumping … that does kind of describe the pantster style of writing a first draft. You know I’m a big pantster, too. I even let the characters drive the car. I learn a lot along the way, and yes, there might be some whining, crying, and temper-tantrum-throwing too. 😀

    • I hear ya on the whining, crying, and temper-tantrum-throwing…but no matter how much I kick and scream, the characters still get their own way. 😉

  15. Woohoo! I have the perfect thing to try today that’s oudtise my comfort zone! Can’t wait to try it and show you! Hope your day is amazing and I’m looking forward to hearing what you say YES to!*hugs*

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