Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pants R Us


We’ve already established that I’m one of those pantsers---I start something, or something starts me, and off I go. This was especially true of Paradise, which appeared in a rather unsettling fashion just over a year ago. It took about eight months to finish, with frequent interruptions (two novellas, the last third of another book and its revision, life). And as I was nearing the end last year, I started Mistress by Midnight. I made myself stop, then revised Waking Beauty and Paradise. I’ve got all the time in the world for MBM now, but at 45,000 words in, I’ve realized, as usual, I don’t have much of a plot.

Hmm. Halfway home and what to do? Research. I’ve set some of the book in Dorset, a county in England I’ve visited at least twice that I can remember. Yeah, I know. Hardy country. Nothing like setting myself up for a great big fall. But Dorset remains very fresh in my mind. I can picture Con and Laurette skipping rocks and fishing on the River Piddle, going to All Saints Church in Piddletrenthide, a perfectly charming village I've stayed in. We even went to church (pictured) one Sunday, along with about six other people total, including the vicar, and we were the youngest there, hands down. That doesn't happen all that often anymore, LOL. Right now I’m moving around some rocks in my head and creating Ryland Grove and Vincent Lodge from a couple of historic houses. I’m going to follow Con’s footsteps to Egypt thanks to the fabulous memoirs of Giovanni Finati. Yikes.

I’ve already accidentally found some pivotal stuff that’s perfect for my storyline. Crop failure? The heat wave of 1808 with fireballs in the sky and hail the size of a Robinson baby's head (see post below). And somewhere in my milk crate are folders with even more information. Now all I have to do is write the book on my brand new computer!

Do you jump right in or think and plan before you write? Are you mindful after recent publishing scandals of translating your research into your own words? Do you just make stuff up? Where is the closest Plots R Us store?

Please don't forget to visit Vauxhall Vixens on May 29 for our very first guest, the awe-inspiring, artful, amazing and absolutely audacious Loretta Chase, whose Your Scandalous Ways is bound to be a bestseller. One lucky commenter will win a copy!

14 comments:

Tiffany Kenzie said...

Maggie! Love the topic, as you know I'm writing like mad, sitting at almost 50K on the new book, I have lots of plot, but need more research on setting. The book takes you through Constantinople, Corfu then on to Brindisi. Every time I'm in a new place I pause and go damn... what kind of flowers and trees are there? Is there even grass? yes I asked that exact question. My goal for draft two will be filling in the notes I'm leaving throughout my ms...of, look up Brindisi ports and villas, look up boat travels, look up clippers and parts of the ship... story is more important for my first draft, then I'll sprinkle in the dressing later :)

Tiffany Kenzie said...

oh and I research beforehand, and during the story, depends when things pop up for this pantser... oh that sounds so naughty :)

J.K. Coi said...

Great blog Maggie. Thankfully, because I write in mostly contemporary settings, even though they are usually parnormal-based, I don't need as much of this kind of research. But I remember when I started My Immortal, I did a lot of reading of the bible of all things, and I scoured every demon database I could find for reliable background about the beasties I wanted to write about.

Then about halfway through I also realized that my main guy, my immortal (he he) was 900 years old and I wanted to include some of his history, and so I did a little bit more research on old wales.

I've also done some other research--on motorcycles for one, cars, guns, and all the good guy stuff.

It's fun, but unless I'm motoring along and find that I need something, I tend to just write and save the research.

terrio said...

I make things up. But I write contemps so I have an easier go of it. I worry about regionalisms in speech and such but other than that, I just go. Not that I go like the three of you go but I'm trying.

I need to try that "look up X here" thing. I can get hung up on the silliest things. One day I got stuck for hours trying to name the restaurant where my hero works. Would have been much easier to just write "name of restaurant" and keep going but no, I had to know it right then.

No wonder I get nothing done. I'm starting to think I'm not more a writer than I'm a ballerina. LOL!

Stephanie J said...

I used to think that I was a pantser but after recently discovering that I'm a plotter I put more time into research. Sure, there are some things that I write about and I really have no clue what I'm talking about. Is it historically accurate? Probably not but sometimes I need to write and then go back and verify facts later on. It works!

Lisa said...

If you find that Plot's R Us please forward the GPS location:)

I'm a panster through and through. Even if I plan before I write I still make changes.

What a beautiful location and awe inspiring place for your WIP. I've never visited Europe, but I hope to someday. Have fun painting the scenes from your memories. I think that's one of the most rewarding parts of writing. Description is hard enough for me, but if you experience it first hand you draw so much more into your writing.

Mary Danielson said...

Ahem. I'm with Lisa...forward that location please!

I'm normally more of a planner, but as far as setting research goes, I just make things up. When it's time for revisions, I will go in and make things more accurate, but before that? Not so much. It's probably helpful that I'm writing contemp YA though - high schools can be counted on to have most of the same dynamics, if not quite the same curriculum!

And what a gorgeous place for your setting, Maggie! That church is just lovely!

Maggie Robinson said...

Mary and Lisa, there was a post a while back on Romantic Inks that Shelley Munro wrote that had a list of oft-used plots. It's not directions to the store, but.... *g*

Part of her post:
The secret of writing a great book is to take a classic plot and twist it to make the plot unique. Here is a list of the classic plot types:

1. Secret Baby - a pregnancy results from a romance and the father doesn’t know about it.

2. Cinderella - a rags to riches story.

3. Beauty and the Beast - one of the main characters is physically marred in some way.

4. Good Girl/Bad Boy - opposites attract. This can also be reversed with a bad girl/good boy.

5. Stranded - a couple is stranded together and the enforced intimacy leads to more.

6. Marriage of convenience - an arranged or forced marriage leads to love.

7. Family feud - think Romeo and Juliet.

8. Mistaken Identity - one of a couple isn’t who he or she appears to be on the surface.

9. Lady and the Cowboy - a class difference sets a couple apart.

10. Secret - a secret stands between romance.

11. Twins - lots of possibilities here.

12. Kidnapping - an abduction.

13. Business competitors - two people fighting for the same prize and only one can win.

14. Friends to Lovers - a friendship leads to more.

15. Masquerade - pretending to be someone else.

16. Amnesia - where one of the characters has lost their memory.

Thanks both of you for stopping by! Which is your favorite from above?

Maggie Robinson said...

Tiff, I'm having a lot of fun with the research, too, and must thank you for all your hard work on nether hair removal, LOL!

JK, I wrote a paranormal novella that had me dipping into the Bible and magic spells, too. The magic sites kind of freaked me out, tho. I kept expecting a knock at my door at midnight!

Terrio, I'm sure you dance divinely.:) I'm like you, though, I just can't leave that blank thing there.

Steph, I think so much of what we assume to be "historically accurate" from reading romance books just isn't...like all those scenes where the hero tears the buttons off the heroine's dress. Either buttons weren't in use at the time or they were sewed on so firmly it could never happen! I'm reading a fascinating non-fiction book called Lies My Teacher Told Me. It's mostly a criticism of high school American history books and it is blowing me away. So much of what we "know" in our collective consciousness is just plain wrong. It's given me a lot to think about in this election year with people posturing about who's the most "American."

Elyssa Papa said...

Great blog, Maggie! I love your setting to MBM - it's so pretty and romantic, something that belies the darkness that touches your Regency Noir. And I cannot wait for you to finish it. And what you can do that I can't is write these awesome short stories and then go back to your novel, making it so deep and lovely and fantastic writing on the finished piece.

Janga said...

Except for identifying the central conflict of my story, I am not a plotter. Therefore, I tend to research as the need arises. Someone suggested just inserting the word "research" to avoid losing momentum. That's one of those ideas that sounds great but that does not work for me. I have to know the difference between an old Gibson and an old Martin before I can continue. So I have a research stop. The trick is to find what I need without getting so caught up in the subject that research just becomes another word for procrastination.

Maggie Robinson said...

Janga, I know. One thing just leads to another, but I tell myself I'm a life-long learner. Now only if I could remember...

Ely, yes, the area is spectacularly lovely. We visited several years ago with my oldest daughter when we "dumped off" our youngest in London to do a work-study program for the summer. Sarah did a masterful job driving on the wrong side of the road and fit right in since her husband (then her boyfriend) owns a pub.

Maggie Robinson said...

And Ely, I'm going to have to start paying you for the fabulous promos, LOL! Thanks, sweetie.

MsHellion said...

I do a lot of pantsing. I save the plotting for the revising stage as much as possible.