Since we live 4 hours away and it’s the middle of tourist season, you might think the trip would involve some advance planning.
You’d be wrong.
Within an hour, Pythagoras and I were in the car with one haphazardly-packed bag and one confused dog. We didn’t make hotel reservations. We didn’t know which towns we’d visit. We didn’t even remember to pack dog food or deodorant.
|Bindi enjoys the ride.|
But the trip was incredible. 36 hours of beautiful scenery, unexpected adventures, and good conversation.
|On the beach in Florence, OR|
This is pretty much how I write. Authors call this being a “pantster” (short for "seat of your pants") as opposed to “plotter” (those amazing souls who don’t regard outlines as tools of Satan).
There are advantages to both methods, and trust me – I’ve had moments I wished I could try the other method as both as a writer or a traveler. People who plan ahead probably don’t spend nights sleeping in a skirt on the floor of an airport delirious with fever from a bacterial infection contracted in Morocco.
Are you a pantster as well? Or maybe a plotter who’d like to let your hair down and try being a pantster? Here are three tips for both writing & traveling by the seat of your pants:
Don’t panic. There will be moments you realize you’ve backed yourself into a corner with your story or your journey. It’s all part of the experience.
While traveling in Europe, we hopped a bus to Slovenia without considering what we’d do if the bus dropped in the middle of nowhere without access to a telephone, computer, or ATM. For a few minutes, Pythagoras and I assessed one another while considering which of us would fetch a higher price on the black market. Fortunately, we kept our heads, shouldered our packs, and hoofed it a couple miles to a post office that kindly swapped our Euros for Tolars and pointed us to a pay phone. Slovenia ended up being one of the highlights of that trip.
It’s been the same with writing for me. When I set out to write MAKING WAVES (my debut novel) I knew I wanted to write a sort of pirate parody. I didn’t stop to consider the difficulty in setting an entire novel in the confines of a 45-foot ship. That challenge forced me to develop some twists in the final third of the book that are now my favorite parts of the story.
Choose travel companions wisely. I packed for Monday’s beach trip in about 30 seconds, so I may have neglected a few essentials. Like a toothbrush. Or a razor. Or deodorant. Since Pythagoras also forgot the latter, he ran to the store for the deodorant while I helped myself to his razor and brushed my teeth with a cotton ball stolen from his bag. (Incidentally, nothing says true love like sharing deodorant).
It’s the same thing with writing. Plotting is not my forte, so I made sure to nab two critique partners who are masters at it. When I get stuck, I can email either one and whine, “my heroine got drunk at the hero’s male strip club – now what?”
Take the scenic route. My favorite thing about writing and traveling as a pantster is the chance to discover new things. Our trip home from the beach yesterday involved a meandering drive through several small towns. Along the way, we saw a gorgeous covered bridge in Sweet Home and a pair of large mammals copulating at Sea Lion Caves.
|Nookie at Sea Lion Caves.|
|Weddle Covered Bridge in Sweet Home.|
Same deal on the writing front. I had no idea when I started writing LET IT BREATHE (the third in my contract) that the story would include pink-haired biker grandma or an alpaca who head-butts men in the gonads, but those are now among my favorite features of the manuscript. Use your pantster experience to try new things. You might be surprised at what your brain comes up with.
Are you a plotter or a panster when it comes to writing or travel? What tips can you share for making your method work? Have you ever tried the other method just for fun? Please share in the comments.
I’ll be over here shaking sand out of my shoes.