Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Confession of a Blank Canvas to a Toolbox Guru

On Flickr by Zen
 You've set up your file with the grid in place. Your layers are labeled in a long list on the right side  your screen...their order intelligently determined. The Opacity is set at 84% on Layer Back Story, and 20% on Layer Character Motive. Each color is balanced to perfectly portray your image...ahem... your setting. And you've plugged in coordinates after coordinates to get it just right.

You open the Text tool and find your font, and place it in the corner at the top of your "canvas" and title it:

Novel 1: Outline Complete

Then click on the menu, scroll down to "Sharpen", and witness your story shine EXACTLY how you expected it to...with your coordinates and layers cheering you on as you type,

"Complete Manuscript" on page 353, just as you had plugged into your outline.

You are probably chuckling at my exaggeration of a Plotter...or a Toolbox Guru to fit the above Photo editing software illustration...but, oh you Plotter-- is it true?? Does it make you tingly to think about outlining each chapter, every plot twist, and thoroughly knowing your character (after all you've interviewed her, her grandma, sister, mom, and coworker) before she's even entered Chapter One, Scene One? If you do just a little you know how much you are envied? By me?

Let me give you insight into what I refer to as A Blank Canvas...thanks to my dear Alley Cat, Pepper, who helped me realize this post after an amusing conversation about our "different", non-plotter way of tackling a book.

We take a blank page. A canvas, if you will,
G    A    S   P...



Oooooh, does that scare all you plotters out there? Sometimes, I feel like I should hang my head in shame. How can I not fill out page upon page with each plot point, each chapter, each twist, each drama, each whatever-you-call-it, and build that foundation before I start on my first bedazzling sentence ( this fashion of mine (and Pep's, because I must have a partner in crime in this confession...) our first bedazzling sentence is just that, our first...because we might go through twenty different first sentences before we come up with the one that is just right).

On Flickr by Diamond Farah
Do not fear. Or don't think that us Blank Canvas'rs, (I really don't like the implications of being considered blank or a canvas...but for lack of a better term since I am a procrastinator and it is very may have something to do with being a Blank Canvas'r....) please don't think we will never complete a novel successfully...ha! The thing with the Canvas'r  is, we take each brush stroke and begin to "sketch" what we've daydreamed in our mind, or roughly mapped out on an old Hershey's bar wrapper. And if our paintbrush decides to flick a new splatter over here and deepen a motive over there, then we begin to add a new color and take our story in the direction of the paint. We allow the art of writing to create the story on the page...right then and there.

I firmly believe that it really comes down to the way we are wired. There is no right or wrong in this...actually, for the Canvas'r, we might have to go through a little more touch up before adding our signature in the bottom corner...because, after all, the journey's been long and our paintbrush has a mind, or two, of its own!

"To thine own self be true." -William Shakespeare

God is so great. He allows each of us to do His work in a way unique to our gift and our style. Whether you resonate more with the Toolbox Guru, developing a solid outline, a plotted story that takes you from point A to point B just as you had decided in Phase 1,
you breathe a sigh of relief that there are actually nuts like me (ahem, and Pepper...and Amy, so I have heard ;)), just like you, who really don't mind crafting the story like a lump of clay--slowly forming the piece without really knowing what fabulous curve or interesting texture you'll create until you're just at that part....

No matter which of these you are...or if you fall somewhere in the middle... trust that the journey is yours, and if you stay true to who you are, equip yourself with the knowledge of the craft, prepare yourself with either the grid or the paintbrush, and listen to your heart and the story, then your confession as a Blank Canvas OR a Toolbox Guru will become a proud proclamation that you are using your gift exactly the way in which He designed for YOU!

So...which one are you???

Angie Dicken first began writing fiction as a creative outlet during the monotonous days of diapers and temper tantrums. She is passionate to impress God's love on women regardless of their background or belief. This desire serves as a catalyst for Angie's fiction, which weaves salvation and grace themes across historical cultures and social boundaries. Angie is an ACFW member and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.


Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Great post, Ang! I'm definitely a pantster like you and Pepper. Wow, it amazes me that people could be so organized and methodical. More power to em!

Ashley Clark said...

I love this concept, Ang! I always tell my students something similar about starting their weekly papers. Sometimes they'll come to me, not having completed the assignment because they are too intimidated by the blank page. I always tell them to start with one sentence, one paragraph, and most likely, it will be awful. But after that one paragraph is written, it paves the way for something great. I think this is really true for life in general sometimes! We get afraid of making mistakes, so we become frozen, which is really the worst mistake of all, because that's the only state we can't grow and learn from. Can't revise what isn't there to begin with!

I am usually a pantster, but more and more lately, I've found myself plotting! I really like the opportunities plotting presents for a cleaner first draft and for developing the symbolism from page one, rather than having to go back through and rewrite all that into a story.

Pepper said...

snicker - Blank canvas for the blank mind? LOL
ANd, like you said, 'blank' seems an overexaggeration. our minds are working at FULL SPEEDS throughout the day working out the story before we sit to type.

And then we rewrite 20 times.
Unless you're Amy - whose draft looks better than my finished product!

Julia M. Reffner said...

So true! This is definitely one of the biggest struggles I have in my writing life, fear of making mistakes. It has been so hard to force myself to "dump" my drafts on the blank canvas as they are and then begin forming into some semblance of the story afterwards.