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  • C.A. Lightfoot

The problems with being a panster

For the last couple of months, I've been on a roll with Dark Ember. In fact, I think I've written more words since October 2019 than I have in all of my life. I'm averaging 5-7k words a week, which is INSANE given the fact that I only write from about 5:30am to 6:30am. I have two little kiddos, a full time job, a husband, and a life. And yet, I'm managing to write.


The problem is, I tend to be a hybrid writer. I outline in a very basic sense. Write up a 'skeleton' plotline, outline a few chapters ahead and otherwise let the characters just tell their story.


Problem is, I ran into the third act all pumped up and promptly ran out of ideas.


Literally a fear I've had since December, that I would run out of steam. It happened. Oh. Shit.


I entertained the idea of writing something else, which is my usual go-to in this situation. I entertained taking a break, especially since I'm still recovering from a rousing bout of strep.


But I had to pause and think about what I was doing. I've always bailed out in the past, which is why it took 7 freaking years to write the Guardian's first damn draft. 7 years, y'all. Getting up at 5am, goal-setting, holding myself accountable really changed things for me. I knew I couldn't bail, not when the finish line is so freaking close.


I took some more medication and mushed on, even if all I did was Tweet yesterday.


Dark Ember has come to life in a totally different way. I knew I couldn't just bail, I knew I couldn't work on something else (Though I have a Once Upon a Time take on Hades/Persephone that has been tickling my brain for a few weeks) If I did that, I'd lose all the steam and I'd never meet my April 1st goal of a finished rough draft.


So, last night I took out the pen. I started with "Where are we" then I filled in "What can go wrong" (A cave-in/surprise attack is always a fun option) I toyed with character death (which I didn't want to do...yet) and then I marked down where we needed to go.


In reality, there isn't much more to this story. We know why things are happening, we're almost to the end setting, and the characters are all keyed up.


Funny thing is, this new take actually helped. I imagined what it might be like to stage a surprise attack that collapses the tunnels the characters are using to get to their destination. I thought about how that would change things, how the tension would ratchet up. I got excited about writing the scene.


Within two days, I had cured my own writer's block. I'm so damn proud of myself. I don't have all of the details ironed out, but I have an idea. Sometimes, all I need is an idea.


Outlines get in my way. I feel locked in when an outline is too detailed, like I've written this before. I don't knock ANYONE who outlines. Y'all are MVPs. I would LOVE to know how everything goes before I start that first chapter. Unfortunately for me, it never works out that way. My characters like to zig when I told them, explicitly, to zag.


So, my take away from this week is, I'm capable of getting out of my own way and letting the story steer itself, but its also ok to take a beat to figure out the next move.


Only a few more weeks to go until we know if I'll hit my goal. Fingers crossed!


-C.A.

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