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» 2011 » January » 10 Brian Farrey Books

In which I have a bit of an identity crisis

Online recently, I’ve seen several discussions on one aspect of the writing process that can be summed up in the question: are you a plunger or a plotter? Plungers just dive right into writing, unsure of where they’re going, who they’re writing about, or how best to proceed. They may have a few general ideas but for the most part, they fly blind. Plotters sit down and, often meticulously, craft a roadmap for where the story will take them, how the characters will change. Both techniques are completely valid (ALL techniques are valid, I suppose, as each writer’s process is unique) and each offers something to different writing temperaments (for anyone who might be interested, I tend to be a little of both and it depends on the project).

In creating this, my third blog (my first as a published author), I started with a bit of an identity crisis. The first blog I started in 2005 was kept in tandem with my experiences in the MFA program. It was a lot of things. An attempt to chronicle my thoughts as I went through the program. An experiment at developing an online persona. A place to tinker with fiction, some of it blurring the line between reality and what was not. I finished the program with a shiny new MFA and sold my master’s thesis as my debut novel. I felt this signified a turning point whereby the MFA blog needed to evolve.

So I shut it down and started my most recent blog, Assume Crash Positions. This new blog was an effort to be more of myself (and less of the “online persona”) and was meant to catalog my experiences while I awaited publication of my first novel. It was an unmitigated failure. I offered very little introspection (I found it harder to do so in this new blog incarnation) and spent most of my time linking to funny YouTube videos. (You have to admit, some of them were hysterical.)

Now that my debut novel, CHASERS, is due out next year, I’m launching an official website and another blog (c’est ici). So… what’s this new blog all about? I considered several avenues:

–PUBLISHING: I’m an editor. I acquire young adult books for Flux. It would make sense to talk about the publishing process, the behind-the-scenes stories, give tips on writing query letters, etc. But the fact is simple: there are scores, possibly even hundreds, of other blogs that offer this same information and they’re much better at it than I would be.

–CRAFT: I’m fascinated by the craft of writing. I’m particularly fond of examining point of view, as it’s like the nervous system that affects every single other aspect of the story. Honestly, though, my study of craft is more introspective than something I tend to discuss. Sometimes, with close writing friends, I’ll pose questions and we’ll debate the merits of scene vs. summary (a well-worn debate). But mostly, I keep it to myself. And, again, there are countless other sources online that offer thoughtful analyses of craft.

–THOUGHTS ON CHILDREN’S BOOKS/CURRENT EVENTS: Now here, I admit, there may be some merit. In fact, in thinking about the things I’d like to discuss, invariably these sorts of things are bound to pop up. Every 3-4 months, the New York Times publishes some piece by an egregiously ill-informed writer who trashes children’s books and the internet practically detonates with outrage. I can’t help but feel this is unavoidable. But not quite something to spend all my energy on.

–BOOK REVIEWS: Again, I’m sure this may pop up from time to time, if I read something I’m really excited about. But I’m not sure I can devote my blog to this.

And as I considered these different possibilities, it occurred to me: I’m being a plotter. By nature, I enjoy studying structure of novels and that definitely brings out the plotter in me. There’s something safe and reassuring in rigid definitions.

But, in reality, while I utilize both techniques, I’m mainly a plunger. I tend to start with a few rough ideas, a couple scenes sketched out in my head. I tend to plunge until I get stuck and then the plotter takes over. Plunging can be scary, akin to driving without a map or jumping into a pool where you don’t know how deep it is. But it can also be freeing. What I love best about plunging are the surprises. Characters doing things you don’t expect, the ability to say “what if…”.

In all the novels I’ve completed, I followed this pattern: plunge until things get complicated, then sit down and sketch out the rest, leaving room for surprises but generally having a good idea of where I need to go and how I need to get there. And I figure if it serves me well in novel writing, it can work just was well on the blog.

So, plunge with me as I figure out exactly what this space is going to be about. I know, it’s daunting. Why stick with something when you don’t know what the ultimate pay-off will be? Could be exciting. Could be the Most Boring Blog in the Universe. Trick is, you won’t know until you take the plunge.

Are you game? (Don’t answer that. It’s rhetorical. I fear the answer. Look, only three posts in and I’m neurotic. Sure you don’t want to stick around just to watch the implosion?)

Published in: on January 10, 2011 at 6:49 am  Comments (1)