Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Drunken Squirrel

The first draft is the easiest to write. You charge forward and for those who plot, you have a well defined path (Plotters), for those who wing it (Pantsers) you just go with the flow, knowing instinctively where to go with your story. I am neither a complete Plotter or Pantser, some call them Plotsers (a mix between the two). For me, I call what I am: The Drunken Squirrel.

What? A drunken squirrel you say? It's true, I see your smirk.

Let me explain. I start writing, I think I know where I am going and I have my synopsis. Then, for some inexplicable reason, I get side tracked. It may mean that I write an in depth dissertation on tire thread or even why Cousin Pearl got that particular tattoo and piercing at the same time.

So, I stop, redirect myself and start forward again. Ah! I have the heroine where I want her, all of a sudden she wants her nails done. Next is a comparison shopping list on what is the best type of nails to get and where. That's not going to work. So, I address the hero, oh no! Suddenly, I'm writing about why someones sister's brother, great uncle became a CIA agent. Why? Because I have an attention span of a squirrel, a drunk one, that gets confused and meanders off the path. Worse, if I see something shiny---oooh look! I've just created a really cool secondary character who dyes her hair three different colors and thinks thigh high boots are business wear.

Dang it!

What can I do?

First, I take a deep breath and push away the glass of wine...err...coffee. Then I reorient myself by asking these questions:
  1. What am I writing about?
  2. Who is talking? (and why?)
  3. What IS the purpose of this scene or chapter?
  4. Do I really need to go into all this back-story? (I ask that a lot)
  5. Where am I headed?

Asking these questions help immensely, I can usually move forward again. The number one thing about the whole first draft, in spite of my meanderings is : TO GET IT DONE. Afterwards I can go back and fix what my drunken squirrel self has done. Sometimes, in my unexpected twists and turns, I find a piece of information, description, or character that really will help me in my revision. Usually, I get to cut out a whole bunch of useless bits and pieces. You can tell that I look forward to revisions. (no)

They say the first step is recognizing the problem, then next step is to address it. I suppose I better enroll my Drunken Squirrel into a twelve step program for writers.

So, how do you approach your first draft? Do you love it? Hate it? Wander aimlessly?

**The Sugar Doll Award** (I could not upload the picture)

Just as a fun note, a fellow blogger, HAWK, gave me this ward to fill out and pass it one to others. Just write down ten things about yourself. This I think would be fun for all of us.

  1. I collect china tea cups-and use them
  2. I love the colors red, blue, and black
  3. I adore my neurotic cat (although I'll deny it)
  4. I hate camping
  5. I love to cook
  6. I love to work-out
  7. I love the early morning, but I find it hard to get up
  8. I am left handed
  9. I love the rain
  10. I am shy

I am passing this award onto: Nannette, Lynn, Paula, Jeanie, Callie, Louisa, JoAnn, Marie, Naima, Julie, Diane, Christine, Gwen, and Carla (and if I forgot anyone forgive me!)


Cari Hislop said...

I'm a pantser. I often think I know where the characters are going, but I'm often wrong. I love how your character suddenly wanted to get her nails done! To me that is a sign of a living character. She has her own life. She's her own person. I too have found that getting side tracked can throw up something important and though the rest may be deleted that point makes it worth while! I'm definately a believer that if one's chacter wants her nails done, she should get going because who knows who she'll meet while having them done! Maybe the hero has a secret abhorance for dirty nails...or maybe he has a crush on one of the other beauticians...cat fight at the beauty parlour...

Gwen Hernandez said...

I'm a "plotser". I need some direction before I get started, but just the basics.

I love your Qs to get yourself back on track. We could all probably benefit from asking them.

Will do Q list later when not on iPhone. ;-)

M.V.Freeman said...


You are so right, I do get some incredible ideas from doing that, but at the same time, it can be so frustrating. So, I have to laugh...

Now about that fight in the nail parlour...I like that idea!

See, you're a drunken squirrel too...:-)

M.V.Freeman said...

Those questions help redirect me, especially when I write myself down a path that has me totally confused--which is often. I should probably have them tatooed on my hand.

I look forward to seeing those answers. :-)

Christine said...

Hmmm. First draft: plotser. Revision? Plotser with a whine who needs a lot of wine. Seriously, this book is taking on a life of it's own as I revise my plot. I am not even worrying about turning points anymore. I'm just laying in the scenes and lobbing hail mary's.

Great post! Love the questions. I will apply them to the revision NEXT TIME THROUGH. Argh.

Jeanie said...

Great post and hilarious! Love the image of the drunken squirrel. Sidetrack City! I am a pantser, so I tend to get taken down side roads upon occasion, too. Or also tend to drone on too much about one thing or another. Usually go back and cut a bunch of that out.

I am in awe of plotters. They intimidate the heck out of me. I WANT to be a plotter, but I'm not. So, I've reached a compromise. I get the concept down, start writing and then make myself write a synopsis, even though I have no idea where the story is going or if I will use any of it. It makes me think I'm a plotter and I can then relax about being a pantser.

Mental, right?

Ten things about me? Hmmm. (1) I am a lawyer, but I never wanted to be a lawyer; (2) I have big feet and gorilla arms; (3) my family calls me George -- no one remembers why; (4) my husband and I are theater geeks, active in community theater; (5) I am from a little hole in the road in South Alabama called Canoe, named after a Creek Indian chief; (6) I went to the University of Alabama, both undergrad and law school; (7) I lived in Scotland for a year; (8) I am right handed and near sighted; (9) I love, love, love romance novels . . . but I am a total Harry Potter geek, too; (10) I love Chinese food . . and Mexican food . . and Italian food . . and vittles . . and . . .

LindaC said...

I am a pantser with plotter envy. I wish I could plot, but the one time I did plot made me feel like I'd already written the book. What fun is that? Still I envy them, because they can write from point A to point Z without going down all of wrong paths. Sometimes I feel like a rat in a maze! So how do you write a synopsis if you're a pantser/plotzer-something other than a plotter? There's no way you can write one that's going to be right unless you write the manuscript first, then go back and do the synopsis. This is what I used to do in school-write the essay, then go back and write the outline. Hated outlines!


Callie James said...

I've been waiting for my Drunken Squirrel post!!! Love it.

I do both. I plot the blurb and a 2-page synopsis (which covers the basic points). I panster the way through the rest of it.

Ten things about me:
1. Write romance
2. Not a romantic
3. Love to cook
4. Always on a diet
5. Love gardening
6. Can't keep plants in my house because of animals
7. Love to read
8. No time to read
9. I'm an introvert
10. I pretend to be an extrovert

And this is why my favorite beverage is red wine (I guess that would be #11).


Gwen Hernandez said...

Mary: Like you I love the morning, but hate getting up. Except today when I couldn't sleep. What gives?

Jeanie: You do not have big feet or gorilla arms. You are perfectly proportioned for your height. If you don't want to be so tall, I'll gladly take some of your inches... =)

Okay, ten things about me...
1. Like Callie, I'm an introvert who fakes it.
2. Hate coffee (I know...)
3. Get bored easily
4. Love being an AF spouse (see #3)
5. Have a tattoo on my foot. Got it (age 20) precisely because people wouldn't expect me to. Don't regret it, but wouldn't do it again.
6. Love to eat
7. Love to jog (especially the feeling after it's over)( see #6)
8. Mmm, Reese's peanut butter cups...I'm sorry, did I actually type that?
9. Love the rocky cliffs of the California coast (mountains, ocean, great weather). Trying to convince my husband that's where he wants to retire. ;-)
10. I'm a military brat who says she's from Arizona because it's easier than trying to explain.

~Li'l ol' (almost) five-three me

Sherry Werth said...

Love the post! LOL At least your alter ego won't be alone at AA. Mine will be right there beside you!
Plotter, Pantser? Right now I have no idea. Both my H/H packed a few bags, gave me a nice little wave goodbye and took off for a vacation on a tropical island. If they don't come back soon, I may have to join them!

Christine said...

Ten Things about Myself:
1. I have a terrible temper.
2. I am very competitive-I hate to lose.
3. I love to cook.
4. I hate to diet.
5. I exercise only because it's necessary.
6. I love the ocean.
7. I have a lot of friends, but few are trusted.
8. I have a lot of secrets.
9. I love my cats, but I hate the kitty litter.
10. I'm addicted to candles.

M.V.Freeman said...

I so feel your pain! I have the rough draft...and I'm rewriting the whole plot...drat my drunken squirrel...

You can do this...I see the fire in your eyes. :-)

Yeah, and I have to confess, a glass of wine now and then helps...LOL

M.V.Freeman said...

I really dislike writing synopsis-do you find that you have to rewrite your synopsis once the book is done? I am finding that.

I love your answers! I find it fascinating the things we think of when we write about ourselves...and your nick name George, that is awesome!

M.V.Freeman said...

Hi Linda!

Yes, I really hate outlines, but I always did them first. Even if I disagreed with them.

Even now, I am finding that although I have a synopsis..who says things can't change? Like the whole plot! LOL

Now, do you write the synopsis, even though you know its going to change?

M.V.Freeman said...

I like that you do the two page synopsis--single or double spaced? This really makes the story hit the high points.

I didn't know you liked to garden? How neat, I am so not a green thumb, but that's another story. And I feel your pain on all of them!! :-)

M.V.Freeman said...

Now you have me interested in the tattoo...what kind is it? or do we have to wait until summer?

And that's ok if you hate coffee...more for me. Ha!

Thanks for the answers, I'm loving reading them!

M.V.Freeman said...

We'll hog tie those two and drag them back to sit in the chair. LOL

It's hard when they leave for a brief time, but they'll be back. Especially if you start thinking of another story.

Do have another idea you are thinking of? (I'm so bad, aren't I?)

M.V.Freeman said...

I looked at your list, and thought, "I should've put that..." I identify with a lot of what you said.

Especially the cooking and the candles. :-)

Who cool. :-)

M.V.Freeman said...

Ok, I meant to say How cool...now who cool. I left the post, because what the heck, it was my drunken squirrel talking again...

Christine said...

Sadly, I knew what you meant. We must have been separated at birth :-)

M.V.Freeman said...


Carla Swafford said...

Pantser with plotter envy.

Ten Things, huh?
1) The best part of my day job is the traveling (though not now due to the economy) and bossing men around.
2) I love watching General Hospital online.
3) I took piano lessons for 4 years as a preteen and don't remember any of it now.
4) I'm lucky with door prizes and drawings. Just can't win Lotto.
5) I never can say no to a donut.
6) I've been married to the same man since I was 18.
7) I broke a bone near my ankle at twelve and didn't find out until I was in my forties. It healed in the wrong place.
8) My first car was a silver with black leather interior 1966 LeMans.
9) I'm an extrovert and love positive attention even though I blush. Yes, I know, I'm shameless.
10) I would love to live in Seattle...rain and all.

Cari Hislop said...

To Sheri, I SO know what it feels like to have your characters take off on vacation! I stand here shouting, "Don't leave me! I need the rest of the story..." By then I'm covered in dust as they peel out. Characters can be really thoughtless sometimes and who knows what they get up to when we're not looking.

As for rewriting, I think there's a point where the best thing to do is to start over. I have a story I've drunken-squirled three times so far...it's like each version throws up new possibilities and scenes, but in the wrong book. Tres irritating! The H/H for that one gave up on me and ran off to Scotland about two years ago. I suspect if you could ask them what they thoughty of me, they'd look at you with a straight face and say, "Who?"

Jeanie said...

Gwen, I hate coffee, too! Thought I was the only one. I LIKE the way it smells, just not the taste or the messy grinds, etc. My husband is a big coffee drinker . . .

It's true I AM tall, but I'm all legs and arms and feet. I am so short-waisted that when I sit down,I can't see over the steering wheel! I swear, God made me out of left-over parts. But they all work (except for the broken ankle right now) so I won't complain.

I have loved this post and getting to know you all a little better. And, yes, I usually have to rewrite my synopsis once the book is done. That drunken squirrel again. Things happen I don't anticipate, and that changes the plot. But that's the fun of it!

JoAnn said...

Mary, I am a drunken squirrel too. (I think that should become an official classification: Plotter, Panster, Plotser, Drunken Squirrel.)

Sometimes I'm a plotter -- then I dash over to the pantser side -- then turn back around and run to the plotter side. And so it goes.

No wonder I don't get anything accomplished!

Jeanie said...

Mary, I totally agree with JoAnn: Drunken Squirrel should SO be its own classification of writing! As a pantser, I oft times feel a drunken squirrel is at the wheel and driving my story!

M.V.Freeman said...

Oooh Carla,
I'm with you, I'd love to live in Seattle (and I love the rain!)

Now, about donuts..are your a Krispy Creme, or a Dunkin' Donut gal? I'm a Dunkin' Donut gal. :-)

I love your list!

M.V.Freeman said...

You had me laughing! I think if my characters did that I'd be a bit miffed.

And rewriting...ooooh how I identify with that, but I agree each time shows us something new.

(Am I correct in thinking that you are living in England? For how long?)

M.V.Freeman said...

LOL, I don't feel so bad. I am about to rewrite my blasted synopsis again and I am not excited about it.

And you also hate coffee? Tell my you like tea? (See, I can forgo coffee, if I can get strong, hot tea that I can put milk in). or do you like herbal?

Also, now that you described yourself, I have this visual of you that I must resolve. LOL At the next Meeting I can make, I will make a point of introducing myself!

This exercise is/was a lot fun!! :-)

M.V.Freeman said...

JoAnn and Jeanie,

Aww thanks about it being a classification, I was talking to Callie one day, and it just came out--that is how I feel I write, so I decided to put it in a blog. It seems I am not alone. *whew* :-)

JoAnn--You do accomplish things!

And Jeanie--Yep, that dratted drunken squirrel driving again..
what are we to do?

Cari Hislop said...

To M.V.: I've been in England twelve years. I married an Englishman on line who turned out to be my dream man. I grew up on the Oregon coast, but my parents are both from the Seattle area. I love the rain too, which is just as well as we get lots of it over here. At the moment though I'm in a snowglobe, hopefully it won't stick. I'm ready for warm sunshine!

Good luck getting that sqirrel to drive in the right direction!

Paula said...

I'm a plotter with pantser envy. I wish I could just sit down and follow my muse wherever she went, but she's got a serious case of ADD and if I didn't keep her under control and focused, I'd never finish a book, certainly not in a timely manner. I see plotting as Ritalin for my muse.

Hmm, 10 things about me...

1. I'm obsessed with the color blue, specifically sky blue and the various shades connected to that. If I could have my house decorated in blue everything, I'd do it. But I don't look particularly good in blue, so I don't wear it that much.

2. I'm even more competitive than Christine. (Hah! Did you see how I just did that?)

3. I used to host X-Files chats on the AOL X-Files forums.

4. I used to write Mulder/Scully romance fanfic.

5. I dabbled in screenwriting for a couple of years before realizing it's not what I'm supposed to be doing.

6. I met my best friend online and to this day we've met in person only three times, because she lives in New Jersey. But we've been friends for almost fourteen years.

7. I played flute and baritone horn in my high school marching band.

8. I went to college on an academic scholarship won by the grace of God, because my suspect math skills would never have otherwise allowed me to make the highest score on the qualifying test.

9. I hate the smell and taste of cloves.

10. I once had a cat named Chunk (best cat ever, RIP) who got her name because she was fat and chunky when I got her as a kitten and, while I was waiting to figure out what her real name was going to be, I called her Chunk as a placeholder. It stuck. Poor Chunk.

Jeanie said...


Yes, I love tea! All kinds! I am a tea-aholic. As for what are we to do about our drunken squirrels? Strap ourselves in and try and enjoy the ride.

I think Paula and Christine should have a competition to see who's really the most competitive. Suggestions, anyone?

Naima Simone said...

Hi, Mary!
Ten things about me:
1.I'm a twin and younger by 5 stinkin' minutes that my sister has been lording over me for 30 some odd years!

2. I love 80's music. They just don't make music like that anymore.

3. I gave myself a middle name when I was about ten because everybody in my class had middles names except me and my sister. But I mean, c'mon. My name is Naima...do I really need a middle name?? LOL!

4. I played the electric guitar for a summer when I was a teenager.

5. I've seen the movie Stand By Me 34 times.

6. I've read "Son of the Morning" by Linda Howard twice a year for the past 10 years.

7. I was captain of my drill team in high school and "stepped" in college.

8. I have an obsession with Ireland and all things Irish.

9. I wrote the "C" word and "P" as terms for male and female genetalia for the first time a year and a half ago.


10. I play the soundtrack for 300 at work when people get on my nerves! LOL!

M.V.Freeman said...

Oh, how cool is that..met your dream man online! And 12 years in England, do you come home visit every once in awhile?

I love the rain, but I agree snow is fine for about ooooh two weeks, than I want it GONE. (I'm origionally from Minnesota..I've had all I can take for a life time)

As for the Squirrel, I've got it in rehab for the rest of the revision. It will get let out when I start the next book.

M.V.Freeman said...

A plotter with pantser envy! I may have to talk to you about plotting! LOL, but seriously, do you ever write anything (like a short scene sketch or story) and just let your whimsy take over?

And your questions, delightful!
Ha, Competitive...how fun.
And the color blue..(you realize when I mentioned the colors I like they basically form a bruise..)
I think it would be really nifty to see a house done in all forms of blue..I'd think it would be restful.

and you wrote fan-fic for Mulder and Scully! How cool! Did that catapault you into writing for yourself?

M.V.Freeman said...

I agree about the Squirrel..:-)
And if you like tea, I'll have to bring some to a meeting. (Currently, I'm enamoured of one called Russian Country by Harney and Sons at the moment--maybe because I am writing a Russian! LOL)

As for Paula and Christine...hmm. I think it would have to be writing related....How about, name 20 descriptive words for Love? or some such thing. Anyone else? ;-P

M.V.Freeman said...

Wow! I love that you play the sound track from 300,(I love that movie), you are inspiring me to get that. (Does it work, when they annoy you? I'd like some of those tricks...)

Oooh, and you're a twin too! How awesome. Does she write?

I've also wanted to read "Son of the Morning" and for some reason I've always put it off, you've convinced me now. :-)

That's the thing, I LOVE the answers everyone has written to their questions, if I had time, I'd comment on every single one of them..but now I can talk to y'all when I see you ;-)

Jeanie said...


The tea sounds lovely. My mother was enamoured with Russian literature when she was pregnant with me and wanted to name me Natasha or Demarius. (The last one was my great great grandmother's name.) Fortunately, in those days, they gave women something called 'twilight' during labor, and my dad and the doctor hurried up and named me before she woke up!

Naima, I gave myself a middle name, too! My maiden name was Jean Webb. Front to back, eight letters. Monogrammed sweaters were very big when I was in college, but I never could have one with only two initials. So, one of the first things I did as a law student was go down to the courthouse and give myself a middle name!

M.V.Freeman said...

Your mother sounds wonderful! I named my children Russian names (Tatyana, Svetlana), because that was the only names my husband and I could agree on. I wanted Morrigan for my eldest and Sinead for my youngest..obviously I did not win that argument. :-)

And giving yourself a middle name, that's outstanding! :-)

Cari Hislop said...

to M.V. : I get back to the States every three or four years, but my family are all over the place so I see them in turns depending on who's buying my ticket and which part of the country I end up in. There's a good chance though that when my husband retires we may end up moving to the States as his pension would go farther and there are lots of different places I wouldn't mind exploring.

M.V.Freeman said...

I have to admit your life intrigues me! LOL
It sounds wonderful, I'd like to ask you more questions. So be prepared. :-)