Plotting vs pantsing: the eternal question.

I started on my fantasy trilogy as a complete pantser. I had no plan whatsoever. After an inspiring road trip in Ireland, I came back with a head full of something I could not quite articulate and just started writing. What this resulted in was a first draft that was plain scary. In fact, it took me a year to revise the first book in the trilogy because I had to rewrite half of it and fix extensively the other half. Thankfully, I was excited enough about my initial idea to have enough motivation to carry through this task.

The plot and structure of the book crystallized out over time, and, in the end, things ended up tidy enough. But, my, was it tough to get the project to that level. I know that there are vehement advocates of either pantsing or plotting, but I reached the conclusion that the truth, at least for me, lies midway.

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Owning the baggage that trips us: when they told me I shouldn’t write.

A few weeks ago, I met Garth Greenwell at a reading of his book, “What belongs to you.” I was completely taken aback by his eloquence and uplifting ideas. During the discussion, he said one thing (among many other wonderful things) that stayed with me (I’m paraphrasing): The wrong or hurtful things we hear and are taught as children will always stay with us; we can never grow up to be as if we had never heard these things; but what we can try is to turn them into something useful.

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Finding that voice.

On November 30th this year, I reached a milestone: my short story, “Clara,” appeared in the November issue of Electric Spec magazine. This is the first time that a short story of mine got published. I can’t explain what this means to me. It’s been a long road.

I took the decision to live my dream rather than dream my dream in the beginning of 2016. Before that, I had always wanted to but had never taken any real steps to live the life of a writer. But finally, two decades of wishful thinking culminated in me having had enough of dabbling. By Christmas that same year, I completed the rough draft of my fantasy trilogy, and in January 2017, I gave in my two-months resignation notice from my day job. This was not a spontaneous decision. In that faithful spring of 2016, a slow transformation began inside me, ending with me finally breaking through the thick wall of fear that had hitherto held me back.

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Taking the plunge into writing full time (and a word on citizen’s basic income).

A few weeks ago, I quit my researcher job to focus on my writing. And now that the mental and physical fatigue, which this decision brought about, are finally starting to abate, I’d like to talk about how I took this monumental step.

What I found out while pondering my options is that I will never stop feeling apprehensive about stepping away from the well-trodden path. Not unless I had a huge advance from a three-book-deal in the bank. But how to get to that point with a day job that eats away a considerable number of hours and creative capacity?

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Good ideas are hardy and how I got started on my novel.

Tomorrow, I will fly off to Ireland. This will be my second visit to this beautiful country with stunning nature and majestic ruins from times unrecorded and times somewhat better recorded but vague enough to inspire.

And indeed, inspired I came back from my first road trip there, and, soon after, I started on a novel. This second visit to Ireland is a pilgrimage back to a place that lit a literary spark inside me. I know I’m not the first and won’t be the last to feel this way about Ireland. Only the centuries know the exact number of monks, scholars, and writers that have made a similar pilgrimage. But, really, the story of how I started my fantasy novel is bitter sweet.

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Oh, that elusive word count goal.

To me it seems that every writing advice out there homes in on the following mantra: write every day, no matter what. Stephen King writes in On Writing  that he writes 2000 words a day. I do agree that a writer should write. I also think that if I were to write only 250 words a day, it will take me an awful lot of time to finish my novel. And what about all the other ideas in my head?

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Now or never: I will write.

Though making writing a paid job has been on the table for a really long time, I never seriously acted on it until now. What changed? Well for one, I suddenly found myself with a lot less time on my hands. I had a baby.

Having a baby really puts a different perspective on things. Suddenly, you realize how efficient and focused you can be in the little time allotted for any single task. Like many aspiring—Cringe! Oh how I hate that epithet. Scratch that. Like many aspiring writers, I have been writing only on the side. There never seemed enough time for my dream. Now, this has finally come true.

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