Embracing Self-Plagiarism

One of the questions a writer is most-often asked is whether they are a “Plotter” or a “Pantser.” We’ve talked about it here on the Waterworld Mermaids a few times. Do you painstakingly outline things, or do you just fly by the seat of your pants and just write like the wind?

I tell people I’m a Plotter, only because the NaNoWriMo goal continues to elude me. The most I’ve ever been able to write in a month is around 36,000 words. Folks who can “Fast Draft” and do something like 50,000 words in a weekend completely blow my mind. *looks at Denny Mermaid*

Am I a Plotter by the true definition? No. Do I actually write all these things down on notecards and post-its and poster board? Not really. I’ve tried it. Short lists, sure. Bullet points. This sequel I’m working on? I outlined it for the publisher three times. The actually manuscript? Well…it kind of looks like the latest outline…

My online SF writers group came up with a great term I’ve embraced: The Athena Writer. Athena Writers don’t necessarily have to have something on paper before they write it. They could look like they’re napping, or staring off into space after a big dinner, and then once in front of the computer the scene springs, fully-formed, from their minds. This is how I write. I have to have everything figured out in my head before I write a scene down. I don’t feel comfortable writing it if it doesn’t make logical sense.

Let’s be clearer: I don’t feel comfortable typing it into the manuscript if it doesn’t make logical sense.

While writing this new book, I’ve stumbled upon a process that I’m definitely going to try more of. I don’t really have a name for it yet. Maybe you guys can help me out.

I go places while I’m writing a novel; it’s inevitable. The doctor’s office. Job training. Lunch dates. These are places where it’s unlikely I’m going to have enough time to “get in the zone” and spend an hour cranking out 500 beautifully poetic words.

However, like most writers worth their salt, I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go. In whatever time I have, I scribble down things that I know need to be said, or that will happen in the next scene. Doesn’t even have to be full sentences. Key words, bullet points, clever dialogue. In essence, I’m “fast drafting”, but in very short bursts, on paper. And because it’s on paper and not in the Word Document, I feel less like I’m having to go back and redo work I’ve already done.

There may be some people who enjoy redoing work they’ve already done. I’m definitely not one of them.

This way, I feel like I’m cheating. Like I’m copying off someone else’s paper while I massage the details into my own style. Only this time, the paper I’m copying off is my own.

It’s all about the paper. I still love writing longhand. Writing on paper gives me the freedom to write crap,. I can do it short-hand, or in the margins, with picture doodles. Then when I sit down in front of my computer later, I spend less time staring off into oblivion or rummaging through the fridge because I already know what’s supposed to happen next. I’ve written it right there! All I have to do is make it a little more flowery and move the scene along. Next!

In the last week, thanks to some of this on-paper-scene-drafting, I’ve raised my daily word count from 1000 words/day to 2000+. Granted, I’m getting closer to the end of the book and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. That always helps. But I’m still going to keep it up. They’re not groundbreaking numbers, but to me it makes a world of difference.

I am all for anything that can make the act of Putting my Butt in the Chair less painful.

So does this make me a Plotter? A Pantser? A Fast-Drafter? A Self-Plagiarist? I suppose I’m a little bit of all these things. Not that any of it matters.

My editor doesn’t really give a flying fig about how I get to THE END…just as long as I get there.