Welcome back to the weekly Q&A column! This week, I’m tackling a big question — why I write — along with two other questions, one about plotting and “pantsing” and the other about the coronavirus pandemic.
Why do I write?
Many thanks to @KeithKunkler on Twitter for suggesting this question. He also suggested a number of other worthwhile and related questions — what is my inspiration, and is writing an art-form or is it a method of self-expression (or both)? Keith is a poet, and you can check out his poetry collections on his GoodReads page.
This question is deceptively short. Just four words long. Why do I write? It’s a more complex question than it lets on. And I can’t speak for anyone else on this one, because we all have different reasons for writing. Some people write for therapy. Others write to express themselves. Still others write because they simply love words.
When I started writing, I wrote because I was bored and because I loved telling stories. I still write novels and short stories because I love stories. I write poetry because I love arranging words in a beautiful way. And I write blog posts like this one because I like helping people, and because I have a vision that I need to express.
So I write for more than one reason. Usually, I’m writing for several. At the core of my writing now, though, is a need to write. I’ve been writing for so long that if I quit all of a sudden, I’d have nothing to do. I’d have too many hours in my day to fill. I would feel lost.
Do I have a “toxic” relationship with writing? Or a writing addiction? We’ll just have to save those topics for another time…
How do writers approach starting a novel-sized story?
Thanks to Dee Dee, @DeolaAkinlaja on Twitter. Dee is new to Twitter, but incredibly supportive, and was wondering about whether fellow writers outline their work before they start writing or whether they just “go with the flow.” As a writer, I can give my own answer to this question — and I’ve also dug up some research I did a while ago to help answer it. By research, I mean this Twitter poll, back when Voyage of the Mind was still Laura Schmidt Books…
As you can see from this poll, the number of writers who consider themselves “plotters” are roughly equal to the number who consider themselves “pantsers” or discovery writers. Pantsers are called pantsers because they “fly by the seat of their pants,” although some pantsers have decided that the term “pantser” is derogatory — which is why I’ve also included Brandon Sanderson’s term for the same concept, discovery writers. Personally, I’m totally fine with the term “pantser”!
Do I plot or… pants?
If you’re talking about first drafts, I’m a pretty avowed pantser. I never write an outline, because the few times I tried (early in my writing journey), I didn’t make it through the story — I got bored halfway. Okay, more like about a chapter in. I find that writing an outline boxes me in and doesn’t allow me to use one of my strongest suits, my ability to adapt a story to its characters. For this reason, I don’t plot during my first and usually my second draft.
By the time the third draft rolls around, though, I need to be honing the story towards its finished form. So I’ll usually take some notes so I know where to steer the plot. My notes are pretty bare bones, but here’s where I get into the territory of “hybrid” writing. That’s where you sort of plot, sort of don’t. And as you can see from the poll, most writers consider themselves hybrid writers.
What this basically boils down to is that everyone needs to discover a process that works for them. Not just a writing process, but a process that also includes revision and editing. The way to get there, most of the time, is through trial and error. Okay, if you’re a plotter, you probably already know it. Each approach has pluses and minuses. In the end, it’s most important to choose the approach that fits you naturally.
To start you off, if you’re a person who naturally likes to plan in other aspects of your life, you might want to try plotting. And if you’re someone who goes with the flow in everything, you might want to pants your way to success.
What’s behind the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. (and around the world)?
Long story short, COVID-19 has probably become endemic.
What does that mean? That means that the novel coronavirus has joined the pantheon of diseases that remain in constant circulation through human populations. When enough transmissions occur, and enough people are infected, transmission continues to occur. And since the novel coronavirus mutates, it’s likely that catching the disease once doesn’t give you immunity forever. Think about the flu. You can catch the flu many times during your life because catching it once doesn’t result in “forever” immunity.
The novel coronavirus doesn’t mutate as quickly as the flu, which is good news for us for several reasons. For one, it’ll be easier to make an effective vaccine, and that vaccine won’t have to be modified as often as the flu vaccine, which is completely seasonal. Second, it means that whatever immunity you receive from having the virus once will last longer, since the virus will stay in the same form longer.
A slower rate of mutation also somewhat decreases the risk of a mutation that could produce a more dangerous form of the virus, although it also decreases the chance that the virus will mutate into a less dangerous form.
The warning from the World Health Organization
The WHO has been warning since near the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic that the virus was likely to become endemic. So I’m not even the bearer of bad news! A number of similar respiratory viruses — adenovirus, SARS-COVID-1, the four coronaviruses that make up the common cold, and more — already actively circulate through human populations. SARS-COVID-2, the novel coronavirus that you know as COVID-19, will likely add itself to that list.
Yesterday, the New York Times reported that the new cases contain a “disturbing” number of young people. But this might actually be a good thing. The mortality rate hasn’t gone up. And deaths are staying down, for precisely this reason — young people, who are more equipped to survive the virus, are the ones getting it. Let’s hope that they act responsibly and stay away from the elderly and immunocompromised, though. And we also have to remember that although most young adults do survive the virus easily, perhaps not even showing symptoms, some die. There’s also a possibility that the virus will change and take a form that’s more deadly to young people.
The toll of this pandemic is likely to be remembered in terms of both human lives lost and the economic damage it dealt to the global economy.
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Why do you write? Start a conversation in the comments.
I’d love to hear your voice! Why do you write? Are you a plotter or a “pantser”? What do you think about the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and around the world? Tell me anything. Or post a question you want answered next week.