Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pantsing to the Max: The Dickens Challenge

I've posted several times on the Plotter versus Pantser styles of writing. Recently I invited multi-published author Timothy Hallinan to guest on my blog, and he wrote an excellent entry on how a pantser writes a book proposal. I first learned of Tim on reading an excellent article he wrote for The Internet Writing Journal, called To Outline or Not to Outline--a big issue for pantsers, who generally are uncomfortable with extensive advance plotting of their books.

Now Tim Hallinan writes to me with an interesting proposal for courageous pantsers:

Hi, Sphinx Ink --

If you get a chance, look at my latest blog at http://www.timothyhallinan.com/blog/?p=64.
It issues a challenge to writers to do what Dickens did, and post a chapter at a time AS THEY WRITE THE NOVEL, meaning it's pantsing to the max.

I've said I'll attempt it if two other people are crazy enough to join me.

Is this something you'd like either to attempt or to share with your blog community? I'm sending it to half a dozen writers with sites and also posting it on Crimespace.

Let me know.


What say ye, O bold and faithful pantsers? Shall ye try your hands at this experiment? Can you emulate Charles Dickens, whose chapters were printed week-by-week in the newspaper as he wrote them?

Visit Tim's blog and let him know.

(I am thinking about it...thinking....thinking....)


Tim said...

Elora --

I'm so glad you're thinking about it.

A lot of writers have responded -- published and unpublished alike -- and their questions have led me to re-think the idea a little.

First, you can plan ahead, but not for very long -- you want to get the first chapter up while the idea is still warm. Then you can plan more between chapters.

Second, it can be a work of any length - novel, novella, biography of someone who lived a short life, whatever you want.

Third, you can begin to post whenever you want. Two of us are starting this coming Monday. One other will come in next Monday. Others are still figuring it out.

Fourth, you can work in short units -- nobody's defining a chapter as 4000 words. My first one, which is almost finished, will run about 1800 but that's because I got an idea for a character halfway through and just ran with it.

And finally, the point is to have fun. You can't go back and change things and make everything perfect, so you might as well just try to entertain yourself and the reader, in the way stories written in installments have always done.

By the way, I think it would be cool to graft an online writers' group to this idea: regular supportive reaction to the excerpts as they go up. I don't know about you, but I love writers' groups. In fact, you could think of this whole thing as a really, really big writers group.

Oh, and one more finally. While I assume we'll all run our work on our own sites, one of the guys on Crimespace has volunteered to create a special DICKENS PROJECT site -- an explanation, notes about who we are, links to the work, maybe some ongoing self-commentary about how/what we're doing, etc. Could be fatally cool.


Charles Gramlich said...

I saw this and considered it, but I'm afraid I haven't the guts, or the strength. Still, it is so, so tempting.

Lisa said...

Color me crazy -- this is something I don't have the skills or experience to manage, but I think I'll give it a try anyway. I'm certain I'll learn a lot from it. Gulp.

Shauna Roberts said...

The challenge is certainly intriguing, the more so given how many rounds of revision I normally do, but it's bad timing for me for several reasons. Thanks for letting us know about it, and I hope you try it out.

Sidney said...

I'm Sid and I'm a pantser. It's only been about 12 hours since I wrote something off the top of my head.