Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Left Brain, Right Brain Antics

Do most writers think of themselves as right-brained people? I’m a writer and I place myself firmly in the right brain camp. Or I did, until I took a quiz (alright, four quizzes – cue eye roll) on the Internet. I answered a series of multiple-choice questions and results were tabulated by – frankly, I don’t know by who - but they were supplied and they revealed that while I may be slightly more right-brained inclined, I also rely almost as equally on my left brain.

Really? I was shocked and appalled, hence the taking of more than one quiz. But they all came back with close to the same result, even with the whole number and equation-hating thing I have going on. Although, I do have a favorite number, lucky number twenty-seven, but lucky numbers only do you any good if they come in a set of six and they win you the lottery. I don’t buy lottery tickets. I mean, why waste your money, right?

Then I started to think there was no reason why I couldn’t be intuitive as well as rational, be slightly impetuous while keeping it safe. Know as well as believe. And maybe those quiz results explained why I’m developing an appreciation for plotting and, dare I mention, outlining while clutching some of my original pantsing tendencies close to heart.

I’ll always remain a panster deep down inside because who can resist the adrenalin rush of dumping out a story and seeing where it takes you. I learned that during NaNoWriMo, even with its hair-pulling days and let me tell you there were quite a few towards the end. But part of me thinks it would be nice to end up with a cleaner first draft and to have less of a revision debacle awaiting me after I’m done. So before I jumped into November I did a little plotting. Not much but I did up some character charts and attempted a writing exercise I’d definitely do again. All of which helped me get a handle on where I wanted to end up and how I wanted to get there. A quick reference to have at hand encase I got stuck as I kind of, sort of pantsed my way along.

As well, November saw me taking advantage of an opportunity to purchase my first computer writing software, Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Pro, at a reduced price. I’ve been intrigued by his Snowflake Method for a while now. Go to the Snowflake Method article.) I plan on using it when I start revising my NaNoWriMo project, so more about how that worked out in a later blog post.

Not that I don’t like revising. I do. There’s nothing like that fist pumping feeling of knowing you’re in the right mind set and have just reworked a load of crap into the perfect sentence, tweaked and came up with exact right dialogue, or added a wonderful metaphor. To quote Colonel Hannibel Smith from The A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.” To go from the insanity of the first draft to a rational, well paced, well plotted, well-written story. At least that’s the plan. To maintain my creative voice within a well crafted story. I think to do that you really have to utilize both your left and your right brain functions.

Do you lead with your left brain or your right brain. Do you enjoy the ‘big picture’ feeling of writing the first draft or do you prefer revising with its attention to detail? Or are you like me and partial to both processes?

And don’t forget our very own, Jana Richard’s novella, Burning Love, is available starting today from The Wild Rose Press. Check it out.


Helena said...

I guess I'm a combo type writer, too. I'm not a true pantser because I need to know the premise of the story, the direction it will take, and how it will end (more or less). However, I don't know my characters too well, nor do I plot out scenes, in advance. So when I begin writing I don't really know HOW my characters, who are almost strangers to me, are going to get to (my) predetermined ending.

For NaNoWriMo I knew the story I wanted to tell, but I believe I was still the pantser, and that approach worked well for me because I was just happy to write whatever came into my mind, and scenes were written out of order and may be irrelevant in the end, but they helped me to get to know my characters. I love to see characters develop as I write; they often say things that surprise me. I do agree that it will be a MASSIVE editing project.

On the other hand, I think it would be a good exercise to plot an entire story, identify all the scenes (where they take place and who is in each one), plan the action that is necessary to the story, and then write it from the plan. I wonder how soon I would be chafing against what might feel restrictive about this method. I think I would always want to allow myself to head off on a tangent, to explore even if not to keep, other possibilities for the story.

My current difficulties in bringing my first draft to a close stem directly from my habit of 'winging it' so I had to do some soul searching for a couple of days (using up good writing time) to figure out how my characters were going to bring about the HEA I had prescribed for them long ago when I first started this novel. It's been a fits and starts kind of process as well, with a lot of other things getting written in the meantime. That certainly adds to the problem, since more continuity may have helped. At any rate, it has been an interesting journey.

Thank you, Karyn, for presenting an opportunity for me to examine (and critique) my own approach to writing a story. Good luck with your BIAW!

Jana Richards said...

Hey Karyn,
Thanks so much for the plug for my book! You're too kind! And since we're doing some shameless self-promotion here, I want to add that I am guest blogging today at Much Cheaper Than Therapy about confidence and the writer, and ways to increase confidence. I'd love to hear comments from other writers on how they deal with issues of confidence.

Back to the topic at hand, I'm not sure if I'm primarily right-brained or left-brained. In my day job I do a lot of accounting, and it's usually frowned upon to use creativity when doing one's books. :) I think most people, especially writers, switch from one side to the other, depending on what they're doing. For instance, I would think that writing a first draft would require the brain to use the right side. In a first draft you've got to let the creativity flow. To paraphrase Nora Roberts, "Vomit it out, clean up the mess later." Later, when you're "cleaning up" in the editing stage, you need to use those analytical skills of your left brain to decide what works and what doesn't. There is still creativity needed in editing, but I find I must be very logical in this stage.

Interesting blog Karyn and thanks again for the plug!


Janet said...

Sure - challenge me to take a quiz! Thanks a lot.

Yes, I went looking - found three and the results are:

1. Equally shared - both right and left brain exactly down the middle.
2. Right brain - with the warning that I tend to think up lots of great ideas, but the excitement fizzles and I move onto something else (so true)
3. Right brain - I am very good at visualizing things, picking up on non-verbal cues, and making things up (thus the reason I was grounded for the entire third grade when I told a whopping big lie during 'show and tell')

So, I take from this that I am great at making up stories, not so good at finishing them - the revisions. Hmm, I'd have to agree. Like Jana said, there's something freeing about the first draft spew that I love. And the reason I am a pantser (still working on the exercise, Karyn - finding it hard).

Congrats, Jana on the release of Buring Love today. Off to read your guest post.

Thanks, Karyn - great post :)

connie said...

Hi Karyn
Well, I had to find out! One test showed that left and right tied -50-50 but gave no explanations. The second one is good in that it explains what each section means and how you use that particular method. My score was 49 left and 51 right. The references to my methods were pretty much bang on and I also found a lot of insights and thought material for me on each one.
This is a first class blog! I have already read it several times and will be thinking on it for quite awhile
I don't bother with plots anymore. I tried it once and the finished work was far, far away from the plot. I write what I am gonna and then add bits and pieces of thoughts, on scraps of paper, to a file on the work for weeks, months after. Then someday, theoretically (if I am not totally bored or don't think it is much of a story) I go back and add and change about. My methods of writing, revising and researching are altogether different.
What I have to do now is create some character outlines. Anyone have a favourite method?
Karyn, you write so well!
The links you gave didn't work out but I will look them up via google and I am on my way to Wild Rose Press.
may I add a p.s. for someone else? Vince, there is now a dagger in the story - no glowing handle though - connie
thanks Karyn

Karyn Good said...

Okay, first things first. Stupid Links! Why are including links in posts failing me lately?

Writing exercise:

Snowflake method:

Jana's novella and The Wild Rose Press:

Maybe they can be copied and pasted!?!

Karyn Good said...

Hi, Helena. I, too, like to know the premise and the direction of the story but all too often I'm fuzzy on how the end will come about. So for NaNoWriMo I had jotted down 12 plot points and 4 plot pivots and while they changed as I wrote they acted as a security blanket of sorts, something to ease me back on track encase I got stuck.

I don't know if I could plot or outline every scene because it would soon, as you say, become restrictive and there's nothing like discovering things about your characers during those unexpected and unplanned turns and corners. I do know I'm looking for ways to shortening the revision process.

THe main thing is you're enjoying the journey that will translate to the page. Enjoy BIAW!

Karyn Good said...

Hey, Jana. I'll be sure to pop by your guest blogging home today. It's always interesting to hear what people have to say about confidence.

In the end I'm glad both my left and right brain are sharing the load equally, in my writing life and beyond. I enjoy revising also as much as spewing out the first draft. Different challanges and opportunities to use various brain functions keep the process interesting.

It's a pleasure to remind people about your novella, Burning Love. I can't wait to read it!

Karyn Good said...

Hey, Janet. Glad you found the time to give some quizzes a try. They're short!

Spewing out the first draft is fun and freeing in a way - getting those voices in your head down on paper. But I enjoy the revision process, too. It wasn't until Jana mentioned confidence that I realized my revision process gets bogged down dipping self confidence levels and insecurities. That's when I allow the nasty voices to rear their ugly head and disable me, switching the revision process from a enjoyable endeavor to a chore. Must stop that!

The exercise is definitely challenging!

I can't believe you were grounded for all of Grade Three! That must have been a doosey!

Karyn Good said...

Hi, Connie. The quizzes are fun aren't they. I'll have to try the one you suggested and see what feedback I get.

I think that' a great way to go about growing your novel. Spew it out then let it sit and record things that come to you as it digests and then go back in and add the things that came to you while it percolated. Good luck creating some character outlines. I find them very helpful even if they change as I go, which is why I always do my in pencil. I have found a favorite character chart on the net and I use that one. I also like to reread Suzanne Brockmann's "Creating the 'Perfect' Romance Hero Workshop article (found at her webite) and figure out the things she suggests.

I hope you continue to work on your ring story. It's such a great concept!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Good post, Karen, I won't take the quiz today because I'm rationing my surfing time but I must be half and half because I've always been very creative in whatever I do. But I also like organization with everything in its place.

Which is why I took that plotting course. And also why I also bought Randy's Snowflake method. I know I won't use all of it but I'm excited to try it out on my next project.

OK, fun time over... back to BIAW.

Oh, and thanks for the reminder on Jana's book.

Karyn Good said...

Hi, Anita. Thanks for coming up for air. We'll have to compare notes after attempting the Snowflake Method.

I'm more than happyto remind everyone of Jana's release :)

Now, get back to work!

Jana Richards said...

Hey Karen,
You know you're really good at this promotion stuff. Have you ever thought of going into business as a publicist?

Thanks a bunch!

Anne Germaine said...

I did one quiz and came out even so I'm not sure what that says.

As far as how I write...I can't make up my mind. I have very successfully created both simple and elaborate plots and have pantsed it and enjoyed learning about my characters along the way. I have not, however, ever finished anything.

Again I'm not sure what that says about me. Either I'm determined or crazy because I'm still working at it. :)

Karyn Good said...

LOL, Jana. Well, maybe ...

Karyn Good said...

Hey, Anne. It pays to experiment with technique and then decide what combination of ideas works best for you. The main thing is you're still willing to work at figuring it out and willing to pursue different options while learning about your craft. Keep at it!

whiteshark0121 said...

I love writing and reading books. I love the notion that people can make things up in their mind and then make them real on a page, for the pleasure or utility of someone else. One of my favorite mentor on learning how to write a book is Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul.