Pantsers, Psyche and garden paths.

I believe I started this blog in February around 6 years ago because ‘that’s what authors did.’

The intention was it would be a showcase for my books as they were published, and everyone would immediately rush out and buy them. It would make me rich and famous, and I could spend my life writing when I felt like it, and being waited on hand and foot.

It seemed a good idea at the time.

Many years ago, I attended a course through work and there were psychological and other tests to decide whether you were the creative type, or better suited to being a number cruncher. Although I wrote a daily diary and the odd snippet or short story for friends, I never imagined myself as being creative. To my mind that was people who could draw or paint, or make beautiful pottery or produce wonderful articles using their imagination and a few odds and ends.

I was very much an ‘i’ dotter and ‘t’ crosser, and felt comfortable when items were organised by size, and paper clips had their own compartment separate from pins. At one time we were working on a project alphabetically, but when we reached the letter ‘q’ were told to abandon it as something more important had come up. It just felt so wrong to leave it half way.

Most people on the course fell neatly into an either/or category, where 1 was the methodical plodder and 10 was the creative. On a sliding scale my colleagues ‘scores’ were all 4/5 or 6/7 – mine was 1/10 – totally opposite ends of the spectrum.

What has this to do with books and writing? Most fiction authors fall somewhere into one of two categories – plotters and pantsers. The first type has their story outlined in note form, and lists of dates, places, names and any other factual information before they even start writing properly. They already know the beginning, middle and end of the story so everything will be neatly wrapped up. After what I’ve just said, you might be surprised to know that I’m a pantser; I might have a vague idea at the outset, but before I know it the story or novel has taken off into a totally different direction, and when I reach the end I’m as surprised as anyone.

Is Procrastination another word for research? I believe the description pantser was based on the old expression relating to someone flying by the seat of their pants. I’m now sorely tempted to look up the expression to see how it originated, but I’d better not if I want to finish the post. 😀

A fellow author has written novels set in both ancient Roman times, and at the turn of the century, so it’s very important she gets her facts straight. Thinking about my own books, I realise they are either based on first hand knowledge, or with an element of fantasy so there is not so much to check. I did however, write a short story inspired by a newspaper article, and had to do a lot of research as I knew absolutely nothing about the life of an octopus. (I’ve deliberately phrased the sentence this way so I don’t have to look up the plural of Octopus.) The story took about half an hour to actually write, but I probably spent around four hours gathering useless facts from Google as one thing led to another.

Take the title of this blog – it was originally going to be a blog about blogging, but one thing led to another and here we are looking up the definition of psyche (or at least I am) to see if it means what I think it means. It does, and even the two options given in my thesaurus, ‘soul’ and ‘mind,’ have other optional words which could lead me down rabbit holes without a second thought if I didn’t have a deadline for this blog post.

My ‘Little Miss Organised’ personae used to come into play as I would have a few weeks scheduled in advance, so I knew my blog would have a good mixture of short stories, information about my books, writing tips and sundry other topics. Recently I have become ‘Last Minute Minnie’ so before I divert into researching whether that is an actual phrase or I have just made it up, I’ll say thanks as always for dropping by.

See you next week.

© Val Portelli June 2022

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