Serena Chase is the author of the Eyes of E’veria series (The Ryn, March 2013 and The Remedy, April 2013.) She lives in Iowa with her husband Dave, daughters Delaney & Ellerie, and a very ornery goldendoodle named Albus. She is hard at work following random trails toward the completion of the third book in the series, due to release in 2014.)
Words from Serena:
All Tangled Up in World’s Largest Ball of Twine
(and other dangers and exultations of writing by the seat of your pants)
by Serena Chase
I am a little in awe of my author friends (okay, a lot in awe!) whose creative process includes detailed outlines, but whose finished product can still bring me to tears or laughter. I don’t really write that way, and being the emotional rollercoaster that I am, I can’t imagine how I could ever seriously outline *shudders* and still produce a scene that would result with a deep emotional response in a reader. I’m what you might call an “organic writer” or a “pantser”—someone who writes by the seat of my pants. And it’s a pretty messy business.
My outlining friends have a method to their madness. All I have is . . . madness. Yes, I’m the nutjob who stares at the blank computer screen with only a vague notion of where I want the story to go, but no bloomin’ idea of how I’m going to get there. It’s a little like setting out on a vacation with friends you don’t really know that well yet, with no map, no GPS, and only “Oh, I don’t know. California, I guess? Or somewhere like California?” as the destination.
So, you start driving. You know that to reach California (or somewhere like California) you have to go west and a little south, so you head that direction. Pretty soon, one of the characters along for the ride shouts, “Did you see that sign? Next exit is the National Mustard Museum! We should totally check that out!”
Everyone agrees, so you take the exit and pretty soon you’re laughing and having a pretty good time in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin because, hey, you just happened to show up on the day the city held its Annual Festival and there is all kinds of stuff to see and do in this Place-You-Never-Even-Knew-Existed. But just as you’re about to find out how a cracker tastes when dipped in cranberry-caramel mustard, the sky darkens—it goes a little green—and the crowd hushes just in time for the tornado sirens to go off.
You look at your traveling companions, wondering, “Can we make it out alive? Will we be forced to leave someone behind?” And then The Loud One, the One Who Must Be Heard, speaks a crazy sort of reason against the pounding beat of your heart, “We’re strangers here,” he says, “and the Beast of Doom knows it! We can outrun it! I know we can!” And because The Loud One is right more than he is wrong, and because the first hard, slapping drops of rain are hitting your face, you realize there is no other option: you must flee Mustard Town to survive.
Finally, you make it back to the interstate, the beast loses your trail, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. After you take a moment to make sure you’re still headed either south or west, you turn up the radio and, with California (or someplace like California) in mind, you set off again.
And so it goes. Every once in a while, you pause at a scenic overlook to take in a spectacular sunset, or you get a flat tire in a creepy wooded area, or you glance in the rearview mirror to find two of the characters traveling with you are beginning to make googly eyes at each other when they think the other one isn’t looking. As the road unfurls toward your vaguely defined destination, you may pull off a lonely stretch of road to take everyone’s picture by a random sculpture of a giant pumpkin.
That is how I write. Sometimes it involves laughter, sometimes tears. Other moments find me simply amazed at how clever—or stupid—these characters I love can be.
I have wonderful professional relationships—even friendships!—with many left-brained, organized authors, but I’m pretty sure that if they spent even one day observing my process they might end up screaming, tearing at their hair, and running away. Like I said, it’s messy.
And for the record, yes, I do tend to road trip in the same way I write; and, yes, I do often urge my family to “pull off at the next exit!” to see something odd or strange that might make for a good story to add to family lore. I have yet to experience the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, but I have taken pictures by The Great Pumpkin and I have been forced to flee a severe storm shortly after visiting the National Mustard Museum simply because a billboard alongside of the road made me laugh and sparked my curiosity. I mean, an entire museum dedicated to . . . mustard? That I gotta see . . .
Julie at My Favorite Pastime:
Thanks so much Serena for sharing! I think I might like to be traveling in your car sometime as it sounds very adventurous! Well, maybe not if we have to flee from a severe storm, or leave someone behind...
I think seeing that World's Largest Ball of Twine needs to be on your bucket list!