Into the mist.
Sounds romantic doesn’t it?
Like something out of a Scottish Highlands romance.
What if I told you it was really a method of writing?
But let me back up a step – to the moment when Tina asked me to blog on Seekerville during Speedbo.
I was honored, but terrified. Who me?
As we all know, the lovely Tina can be very persuasive. She didn’t quite tell me to get over myself, but….
So I got to thinking. What can I share with the people of Seekerville?
Writing into the Mist
After some thought, I decided to blog about writing into the mist. The title may sound familiar to many of you. Jo Beverley gave an amazing speech about it over ten years ago at an RWA conference and her speech was updated in the April 2010 issue of the Romance Writers Report.
If you’re familiar with the concept of writing into the mist, I hope you’ll share your experiences with us. If this is new to you, hang on. I’m going to introduce you to this technique and encourage you to see if it can work for you. And to be relevant, let’s discuss if it can work in a month of Speedboing.
You can’t hang around a group of writers for too long without hearing the conversation turn to a debate of plotting versus pantsing. I’m definitely a pantser, but I’ve always hated that term. It makes me think of German tanks. (I know, they’re really panzers, but the words are too close for comfort.) The other meaning for pantsing isn’t particularly appealing either. Really? My writing style has to be equated with a bully pulling someone’s pants down?
There has to be a better word.
Turns out there is. Thanks to Jo Beverley, I can call myself a mister.
Mister might sound like a kitchen utensil, but better that than a German tank!
Lets get down to the nuts and bolts of what this plotter/mister divide is all about.
Some people are excellent plotters or pre-planners. They outline their novels carefully and know exactly how the book will turn out before they begin. They have their three (or five) act structure or their beat sheet or snowflake model or whatever other method of planning they use.
I admire these writers.
I aspired to be like them.
But my brain doesn’t work that way.
I’m not being lazy when I don’t pre-plot.
I’m not being reckless when I jump into the story with nothing more than an idea for an opening scene.
I’m not being petulant about not wanting the story spoiled in advance.
I’m just being me.
And fortunately for me, I can have a role model in Jo Beverley. She was brave enough to expose her writing style to the world (or at least RWA National) and by doing so, she took a whole host of scared writers under her wing. You might say she gave me the wings to fly on my own.
If Jo Beverley can write without plotting first, then it’s okay that I do it too.
Okay, enough about me. What is writing into the mist all about?
I seriously encourage you to read both the text of Jo’s speech which is posted on her website and, if you’re a member of RWA, the text of her April 2010 article which is available in the RWR archives online. Writing into the Mist http://www.jobev.com/fim.html
I’m just going to give you a taste of what it means. In her speech, Jo actually takes you step-by-step through her novel writing process.
What does it mean to be a mister?
I think Jo said it best when she described flying into the mist this way –
“It’s not flying into the dark, or even flying into the fog. It’s mist. We can see, but not far ahead.” (April 2010 RWR)
Jo explains that her greatest strength as a writer comes from writing in the now. She basically experiences the scene in her head with the characters. All of her senses are alive to what’s happening in the scene. She says she found that when she pre-plotted a story, she lost that immediacy and her writing felt flat.
For Jo, writing into the mist means beginning with a scene or some characters. After that, writing the book is a combination of exploring and pausing within each scene to ask why. Over and over until the novel is done.
Well, not exactly.
Jo points out that it is critical to keep the basics of good storytelling in mind. These seven points are paraphrased from her speech:
1. Make sure your characters have flaws.
2. Have those flaws oppose strengths.
3. Give your characters secrets.
4. When writing, stop frequently and ask why.
5. Push characters out of their comfort zones and let plot enhancers come to you.
6. Not knowing is good. It helps you avoid info dumps.
7. Characters should fear something.
Much of this may sound familiar. Plotters do this. The difference is a plotter thinks about all of this in advance and a mister stays in the scene, considering each of these as the scene arises.
I can hear the plotters out there having nervous breakdowns. I know the feeling. That’s what happens to me when I try to plot.
I’m a teacher. I know all about how students have different learning styles. What works for ten may never work for the eleventh or vice-versa. I should have recognized this, but I needed Jo to reassure me. Writing is the same. Popular methods that work miraculously well for many writers are not going to work for all. If you’re a plotter, you may have apoplexy trying to fly into the mist.
But if plotting causes you to break into cold sweats or hives, misting may be your hope.
Speeding into the mist?
I promised we’d talk about whether or not misting can work for Speedbo.
What do you think?
I’d say maybe yes, maybe no. If you pledge to write steadily through your book, you’ll get your word count.
So misting isn’t very efficient, you may be thinking.
That’s true, but I’d argue this. Flying into the mist may not be the most efficient way of writing, but for someone who literally cannot plot ahead, it’s more efficient than walking away!
Jo said she gave her speech to validate writers who can’t plot. I’m sharing her method with you today in case anyone out there needs to hear her message. I tried being a plotter and ended up walking away from writing for many years because I just couldn’t do it. Jo offered me the hope to continue. I hope it helps you too!
So, as I begin my day of writing, I’m boldly flying off into the mist. Would anyone care to join me?
Note: Jo says she first gave the speech at RWA 1999, but I heard it when she spoke in New Orleans in 2001.
Misty landscape by Dan
Scream Munch 3D by Danilo Rizzuti
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