Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Letting the Story Unfold

 I've often called myself a "pantser".

Once published, you have to come up with plans for stories to gain contracts... unless you're like Super A-List Author Person but for us normals, you need a plan and it was in coming up with those plans that I realized I'm not a pantser... or a "plantser", putting together plans and seat-of-the-pants writing.

I'm an inspired author. Most (not all) of my books flow from an idea that kind of overtakes my brain and I let it simmer.... or the whole stinkin' idea falls into my lap and I hit the "take-off" button and go for it.

And now I'm wondering where others fall on that spectrum.

I've talked before about how stories unfold in my head... It's not a muse. I believe it's a Holy Spirit blessing that my head clears cobwebs overnight and I've often awakened with how to solve my plot problems. Like Sleep Sorting System, right? And sometimes with a whole book/plot/series that's righted itself overnight.... but it's not always a sleeping thing, often it's a wherever I am thing and that's what happened with this future mystery series.

When it happens I actually see the story, the characters, the premise, as if it's one idea blossoming in a bubble while other bubbles or pages pop up and intersect. Only there are no bubbles, it's not visual, it's there, in my head and I see and feel the story.

Maybe weird... maybe innate "talent" or gift from God? That's my guess, that my mother probably had this quirk and I know one of my daughters has this gift... so it's clearly written in our genes. (One of the good things written in our genes, the strong thread of mental illness from my mother's side is also there, so we're living proof of the power of dominant genes... or recessive gene mash-ups. But that's a whole other blog.)

Here's the difference feels between plotting out/working a story and being blessed with it:

I was working on a profile for an independent mystery series set to launch in 12 to 18 months. I'll write these stories between contracts and Wishing Bridge 5 "Reclaiming Hope in Wishing Bridge", and I want at least four mysteries done before I release book one.... I wanted light, warm, poignant, fun and fast-paced mysteries and I set up the series, wrote the opening chapters, edited, then set them aside for holidays.... 

And then I got an idea.

An amazing idea. It was a combination of things people said and did that made me think of it and I loved it. LOVED IT! 


I could see these characters, these mysteries, the progression of the series, the openness, the warmth of history blended with modern times, the growth of industry like I saw in Ken Burns "Baseball" documentary, how history affected far more than those living it... 

And book one is almost writing itself. 

There was such a difference in the linear path of the story, the characters, the series projection and how smoothly it went that I decided to blog about it because writing isn't easy. When you're heading toward book/novella #70 and ideas have been used and re-used and re-structured, you want to hit the ground running with something that not only excites  you but will excite the readers! 

And this will... because it's quirky enough, fun enough, warm and inviting enough and threaded with enough mystery to make you wonder.... and enough history to make you appreciate what's gone before you.

I may never write that other series because it doesn't have these elements, not in the same way... and yet, it might roll over me at some point, as part of another plan, another day, another time. I've done that with books before and it's amazing how no good work goes to waste if you're actively writing!

This was like technical elements waging war against inspirational elements. 

Or maybe it's just easier for me to write this one because I can envision it?  I'm not opposed to that possibility! 

So that's what I want to talk about today. Do you work on waves of inspiration? Or do you story-build like I see in so many workshops. (Which, most of you know, I avoid because I'd rather write... but again, that's another blog. :)

Let's chat it up and I have a blessing for someone today....

A copy of Jesus Calling, going out to someone. Just mention you'd love to have it in your comment because I know some of you already have it....

And a copy of Embracing Light in Wishing Bridge, book four of my "Wishing Bridge" series. 


Let me know if you already have it and I can sub in a book of your choice that I have in stock here.

Sending blessings of winter.... snowy here, finally, and cold... and that's way better than mud, my friends! 


Bestselling author Ruthy Logan Herne is loving the quiet of winter on her crazy busy pumpkin farm in Western New York because she actually gets time to write more than once a day and that's not a bad thing! She loves God, her family, her country, dogs, chocolate and Diet Mtn Dew... and is regularly seen with coffee. She's the co-owner and manager of Blodgett Family Farm and she loves sharing the crazy parts of farm life and writing and family with her Facebook friends. She loves hearing from readers and writers so email her at loganherne@gmail.com. 


31 comments:

  1. The new series sounds like it will be wonderful, Ruthy. I already have Jesus Calling and I also have your newest Wishing Bridge, as you know, so I won't need in the drawing for those.

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    1. Sandy, thank you so much for your kind words! I am so honored to have you on board!

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  2. Well, that may be what's wrong with my current project. Thanks Ruthy.
    I've always been a plotter, but I waited and plotted around my God-breathed concept. The novels I've published began with character, and the plot stemmed from what those characters would do in the given situation.
    I took a little different tack on my current WIP. I really really wanted to write about Lexington and Concord, I live about an hour away and I've been hearing these stories all my life, so I plotted a "shot heard round the world" book. I did develop characters and put them in situations, but it was way more paint-by-number-y than my first books, or even my novellas. Which is probably why I haven't touched it since October. (Also the fact that I have no idea how to write a Revolutionary battle. Yeah, there's that.)
    I'll probably get back to it, but it needs a complete overhaul and so do I.
    We all have that spark within us, it's what makes us "inspy." Because at some point or other we ARE inspired.
    May be back later. We have mice in the house and I need to overhaul my kitchen.
    KB
    Living the dream in rural New Hampshire

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    1. Yikes, mice?! I'd take a snake in my house over a mouse. Have fun with that, Kathy!!

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    2. Oh, mice! We have an upstairs cat that has dispatched five baby mice since mid-December.... but that means that mama mouse is someplace up there! :)

      But being a farmhouse we've had so many critters come waltzing in. Snakes... squirrels... mice.... flying squirrel... Oh mylanta, I hear you!

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  3. This is really interesting, Ruthy. I love seeing how others' minds and processes work. God is infinitely creative, isn't He, and the fact that each of use has a different way of going about the same essential tasks is amazing. I have always enjoyed the writing, but have been perpetually stuck by never having the inspiration. My high school creative writing teacher wrote a poem for us as a class, mentioning each student and my line had to do with how hard ideas were for me to "catch", so I guess it's the way I'm wired. Thirty-plus years later and I'm still looking for that great spark.

    God has something He wants me to write, but maybe I'm not ready for it yet. So until then, I'll keep trying to find my process and my inspiration, and I have you ladies to thank for the encouragement!

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    1. Oh, and I don't need Jesus Calling, but I haven't gotten the Wishing Bridge book yet, so I'd love to be in the drawing for that. It's a great series!

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    2. I am tucking you into that drawing, Glynis! And I don't know that it ever comes as a great spark, but kind of like a bud that flowers as the idea takes root... like slo-mo on a nature show with David Attenborough, LOL!

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    3. Glynis, it's like listening to God, you just know when it's right.

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    4. You're both right I think!

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  4. I hope you guys can see this. Anyway, I feel so validated as a pantser today. I thought it was just me. It's like any random scene can suddenly start playing in your head and bam! you have a full-on movie there. The novel I'm working on now was like that somewhat so now I am writing things partly linearly and partly out of order to connect everything.
    I am still figuring out my process, though, and I'm unpublished. I do take notes in my manuscript now to help keep track of where things have been and where I need to obviously go next then the next day I delete what notes I have already needed for the story and don't need anymore.
    Thank you for this post. I really liked it. I never got into Jesus Calling much, but maybe I'll go back to the first book and try it again just in case. I haven't even read your first Wishing Bridge book yet, so until I find it please do not send.
    Thank you all for letting me comment here. I am still learning and everyone has so many different opinions on writing that it makes my anxiety go up, but this blog helps.

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    1. Kayla, I have written the way you do, chunks here and there. It's a fine method as long as you can knit it all together in the end. I did two published books that way. I had to be more linear on the third one because there were so many moving parts and I was afraid of being inconsistent (it took place pretty much across the continent, with 'him' and 'her' traveling different routes). But seriously, whatever works for you. Good luck.

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    2. Kayla! You got in! YAY!!!!!

      You know this process is different for each of us. It's never been a one size fits all and we can become self-doubters if we see others doing A,B or C and making it work... and it just doesn't work for us. I think we all have to find our own way and once we do have confidence that if it's working for us, it's all good!

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  5. I think we might be distant cousins, Ruth! :P I write the same way. The story comes to me, and I tell myself-let the story tell itself to me. Not all of it makes it onto the page, but it seems to be the only way I can write. If I try to push it too hard or plot it out, I grind to a halt. I like the way you described it, seeing God's hand in it. And it's definitely in my genetics, my brother is also a writer with the same kind of style of writing. :)

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    1. Gena, isn't it weird but wonderful??? And I could tell that my mother's teenage writing came with ease, she had severe mental health issues once I was born so I didn't get to see it first-hand, but you could see it in her early work... and then hear it in her later stories (verbal) But when I realized my daughter also has this gift, I knew it was written in our DNA. And how that stuff gets written, I do not know, but what a wonderful blessing! We are not alone! :)

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  6. Jesus Calling is one of my favorite little devotionals. And yes, I get what you are saying, Ruthy. God has a habit of dropping things into my mind while I'm asleep. I can go to bed feeling clueless about where a story is going and then I wake up and it's all there. And while I still say I'm a plantser, my goal is to write in tandem with the Holy Spirit, telling the story God wants me to tell as only I can. And if it deviates from the "plan," well then, so be it. It's when I forget to include God in the process that I struggle to make a story come together. And there are still times I try to do things in my own power. Silly me.

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    1. Mindy, that is DEEP. "Writing in tandem with the Holy Spirit." I love this.

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    2. Kaybee, I agree... that is a perfectly beautiful saying. And I love, love, love the Holy Spirit and still regret those moments when I knew I should listen and didn't.

      But it taught me to listen better now!

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  7. Whatever method you use to write, your books are always excellent and worthy of awards! I'm going through Jesus Calling now, and I've read your fourth Wishing Bridge book!

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    1. Edwina, thank you! What a lovely thing to say!!!!

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  8. When I'm writing a suspense for LI it's very much a case of piecing things together to follow a pattern. When I'm writing Indie stories, that's so much more a case of experiencing the story. And I feel like I get taught a spiritual lesson in the process :-)
    I can very much relate to your statement of technical elements waging war with spiritual elements! Very much enjoyed Embracing Light in Wishing Bridge. As I read, I could not imagine what the resolution would be. But it was lovely. Gotta say, all those mentions of goodies in the bakery were killing me! LOL

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    1. Good points, Jenna. I would definitely write linear if I were doing a mystery or suspense. Too many moving parts!
      Ruthy is an amazing cook, isn't she? Good thing it's virtual.

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    2. Kaybee, SUCH a good thing Ruthy's baked goods are virtual! If they were real, I'd be snacking on them ALL DAY LONG!!

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    3. hahahahahaha!

      You know the bakery is SO MUCH FUN!!!! I love it! And having Rachel come onboard was an absolute pleasure. I'm so glad you loved Embracing Light in Wishing Bridge... Thank you!

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  9. Congratulations on your new series. Even though I’m not a writer I always enjoy what you have to say.

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    1. Hey, you know how much we love our readers, Lucy!!!!! Thanks for stopping by!

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  10. Hi Ruthy, I'm a pantser, I started out just sitting down and writing what was in my head for a story, getting my characters in line, having a good setting, and so forth. But then I started taking lots of online writing courses and studying writing how-to books and that did it. All the information bombarded me and I tried to incorporate all that planning, worrying that I wasn't good enough to write, and suddenly my writing slid to a standstill. So, today I'm trying to get back to being myself to write. Jesus Calling is a great book...I bought it after my husband died in 2018 and I reread it every day and have for almost 4 years now. Love your Wishing Bridge series, I'd like to win a copy. Thank you for the post and a chance to win...

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  11. Something I think is STRANGE that happens when I'm writing. I'll find some minor, throwaway point from earlier in the book and all of a sudden it's key, it launches a whole twist in the plot. A barely mentioned, long left behind little sister explodes onto the scene and becomes heroine of her own book.

    An old job, a place they lived before suddenly just slides into a linchpin of the story. It's odd and completely unplanned.

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  12. I do think you're a gifted story teller and writer, Ruthy, and you seem to come up with the entire story line in one fell swoop. That's a gift, as you mentioned. I get bits and pieces of a story and then have to work to see the full picture. Usually that takes far longer than I would like. Also as I write, the story changes...and grows...and turns in a new direction at times. I find the writing process to be very spiritual. God is in control. I'm merely his scribe.

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  13. Writing is such a mysterious process, and maybe that's one reason why I love it.

    Sometimes I see a scene so clearly - like a movie playing in my mind. I've learned to replay that movie over and over until it's ready to be written down, step by step, image by image.

    And then there are the times when the finding the scene is labor. Pulling those images out of my head like untangling a skein of yarn a puppy has been playing with. Somewhere there's a beginning to that string, right?

    But at the same time, I'm a story-builder (I like that term much better than plotter.) I have to know the framework. I have to have a roadmap before I begin writing. But it isn't a detailed map - not a satellite image. More like a child's rendering of the road to Grandma's house.

    Thanks for the great post, dear one!

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