Please welcome Patricia Perry Donovan—an American journalist who writes about healthcare. Her fiction has appeared at Gravel Literary, Flash Fiction Magazine, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable and in other literary journals. She is the author of the novels Deliver Her and, coming in August of 2017, At Wave’s End. The mother of two grown daughters, she lives at the Jersey shore with her husband.
Weeks before my manuscript’s due date, I had to pack for a milestone event: our daughter’s overseas nuptials. Since I was charged with transporting her wedding gown, my suitcase space was at a premium. When stress over these two important “deliverables” coincided, the parallels were hard to ignore.
7 Packing Tips to Lighten the Writer’s Voyage
I adore traveling, but detest packing. The finality of zipping a suitcase shut triggers such anxiety I avoid the task until the eleventh hour, lobbing one last-minute item after another just in case while my toe-tapping husband waits, car running.
Packing (or more accurately, not packing) for a recent trip, my empty suitcase a reprimand, it struck me that this inertia frequently hijacks my writing process.
How, then, might I master the art of packing for both bookish and worldly odysseys?
For enlightenment, I turned to travel gurus, including Rick Steves, who divides tourists into two types: those who pack light and those who wish they had.
I submit this same dichotomy applies to writers. To this end, I’ve adapted some expert packing tips to lighten the creative voyage for writers who wrestle with what goes into a WIP and what stays home.
- Make a packing list.
A pre-departure packing list virtually assures nothing is left behind. While plotting writers are on board with this strategy, seat-of-the-pantsers argue such planning derails creativity.
The ideal expedition likely falls somewhere between, especially when a deadline looms. Before writing my debut novel, I devoted weeks to outlining scenes and characters per a popular method. But once I began writing, I never glanced at that meticulous itinerary again. A pantser was born!
Next stop: book two, whose firm end date curbed these pantser predilections. With one eye on my MS’s departure time, I periodically paused to take stock, then skimmed scenes and detail.
Other authors who accept this compromise include Megan Abbott. “Before I really start, I generally try to envision a three-act structure, but usually without any of the beats in between. The rest comes along the way. Surprise is one of the best parts of writing for me.”
These surprises, like an upgrade to first class or a five-star review, make the best souvenirs.
- Take enough to get started.
If you pack every toiletry from Advil to Zantac, you’ll not only weigh down your bag, but you’ll miss the adventure of prowling Zanzibar’s Estella Market when you run out of shampoo. Accept shopping—and dirty laundry—as stopovers on your sojourn.