“You know what that [Temet nosce] means? It’s Latin. It means ‘Know thyself.’ ”
— The Oracle, The Matrix
Hi, all! I had a blast at Washington Romance Writers’ annual spring retreat this weekend! Thanks again for the lift home to my fabulous blog-mate Taylor Reynolds!
Please indulge me quoting The Matrix (again). That line resonated today on the ride home. This weekend I talked to fellow writers about my work-in-progress novel to bounce ideas and get advice. I haven’t been able to nail down the plot for months, and it’s driving me crazy!
Back when I wrote fanfiction, I was what we call a “pantser” — I didn’t plot things out, I flew/wrote by the seat of my pants. Really, I let my characters drive the plot on the bumpy road to love. What I typed often came as a complete surprise. That was one of the things I loved most about writing.
So why did I stop doing that?
I was working on a popular steamy serial story when my Mom got seriously ill. I took care of her after she left the hospital, and I didn’t have the bandwidth to do that and keep writing. I felt guilty, but I put the story was on hiatus and had a friend write a post explaining why.
Even so, messages poured in asking me to post more installments, and I felt even guiltier. Months after I thought people would have moved on, I was still getting them.
So many messages. So. Much. Guilt.
More than a year had passed when I was able to take it up again. By then, my usually chatty characters had gone silent and I had no road map to get to Happily Ever After from where they left the story parked.
After many failed attempts to move forward, I ended up abandoning my beloved fic. That felt horrible, like I’d let down my readers, my characters and myself. I swore that next time I wrote anything long, I would map everything out ahead of time.
For a long time now, I’ve been trying to keep that promise with this novel. Problem is, nothing I plot seems to work. It’s been a whole new, frustrating kind of horrible for me.
In talking with writer friends this weekend, I kept saying the same thing: The best plot point in this @$%@&$$!!! book didn’t even come from plotting. It came from me tuning in and “overhearing” my heroine say something that shocked the living daylights out of me.
The fourth time I said it, it was to Taylor on the way home. But that time, I truly heard what I said and got what it meant. If I want to write this book, I need to stand down and let my characters do the driving.
More broadly stated: I need to stop trying to be a plotter; I’m a pantser.
Call it my temet nosce moment.
So how about you? Is there something you’ve learned or been reminded of about yourself lately?