Friday, August 9, 2013

ADD and Writing Craft Weird: Writing without My Pants On AKA Winging It Wrong

From: http://pixabay.com/
en/fairy-tern-berd-
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I learned something new today.  If you have ADD, you do not want to be a panster--that is, a writer who wings it without an outline, a writer who writes by the seat of her pants.

Or at least, this ADD writer can't pants a story.

Because to my ADD brain, pantsing is the equivalent of a bird migrating without an internal compass, or writing without any pants on.  Left to its own devices, my brain fails to keep plot and characterization well-focused, self-explanatory, and consistent.  My thoughts are just not organized enough for that. Worse, once I type up and edit up too much of a story, the story becomes set in concrete.  And there are few things I hate more than cracking it, grinding it down to powder, and pouring it into a new mold.

That means I need to learn to do it right the first time.  And I need to learn from my mistakes (like I am doing here, thank God).

That being said, however, there is one area in which I can still pants.  And that is the idea stage, when I'm trying to figure out what story to tell.  A few paragraphs, a snippet, a vignette--all of these can give me material to work with, a concept I can now whip into the proper shape with some hard planning.

And you know what?  It's still fun.  You just spread your fun out.  There is a lot of pleasure to be found in discovering what comes next, in being surprised by your characters or story or the world you are creating. Pantsers derive most of that pleasure as they write.  But as an outliner, the pleasure comes in big doses during the planning stage and small doses during the writing stage.  After all, even with the strictest outline, I still have had character or story or world surprise me in some small way.

So in a nutshell, my advice to writers with ADD and even to those without?  Know your strengths and weaknesses, and then make sure you work from a position of strength, not the easy way or the way peer pressure guides you.  Work your way, and you will make your own success the first time around.

7 comments:

  1. Hmm...I have adult ADD and can pants quite easily. In fact, I do it all the time

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    1. That is great, Adam! I wish I could, but my thoughts are far too disorganized. Every once in a while I manage it, but 90% of the time, I miss. Which is why I have to work with my abilities and foibles; I have to plan focus into my work, or it won't be there.

      By the way, what do you pants best with? Shorts or novels?

      Jodi

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  2. I have ADHD and can't pants at all with longer stories. My characters and I get lost along the way, and the incredible beginning turns into nightmare mess of a middle. No, we don't even make it to the end.

    Short stories and poetry are different. I can usually pants them if I'm inspired because there isn't enough time to get lost.

    Your post is great. It makes me realize I need to take the time to outline. As much as I would like to let the story weave itself onto my computer screen without a written guide, I just can't do it. I need a visual road map.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Christy! It's interesting to hear from other writers with ADD/ADHD.

      I like to freewrite/pants quite a bit, but I know I need to outline or plan my writings, even for short stories. If I don't, many of my writings end up in limbo on my computer, not deleted, but never fixed, and rarely cannibalized for another story.

      Wired for Story by Lisa Cron gave me all kinds of ideas on how to plan my stories and novels. I think some of her ideas will work well for those who don't like to outline, too.

      Anyway, thanks again for the comment! I look forward to seeing you around G+.

      Jodi

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  3. Great thoughts! I don't have ADD myself, but I know some writers who do, and it does plague them. It's tough to write when your mind wants to wander! Solid tips.

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    1. Thanks for the comments! Besides helping writers with ADD, I hope my post helps other writers, too, to find a way to work with all their foibles.

      Jodi

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  4. Gotta pants it. Otherwise I overthink it and then never sit down to writel Once my fingers hit the keys the story comes out, and then I can tweak it. But too much planning makes for no story. Jane

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