We’re very happy to welcome Tonia Marie Harris as our guest today. Tonia resides in south-central Illinois with her husband, three children, and three rescue animals. In addition to writing novels, poetry and essays, she is President of WME Community Works, a non-profit organization that spearheaded the recent development of a grassroots library that serves her village and the surrounding communities. Tonia’s latest work-in-progress is a coming-of-age novel tentatively titled The Education of Sugar Girl. Her work has appeared in Twice Upon A Time, a collection of reimagined fairy tales, Hand/Eye Magazine, Mash Stories, Silver Birch Press, and various anthologies.
I’m a process junkie. When I finish a book I love—everything from Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History—I immediately want to know the how and why behind the scenes evolution of the story. What I realized was that my own process would never come together if I didn’t simply dive into the deep end and write the darn story.
Confessions of an Intrepid Mermaid
I’m swimming. The water mutes the sound of everything but the distant beat of my heart. The water itself is an echo of that rhythm. Voices and the pounding of feet above me are the sounds of another planet. I am a transmitter for something else entirely—the urge to move forward and rise for another breath and plunge back into the water again. Here I have no need for peripheral vision.
This is the recurring dream I had over the summer. This dream of swimming. If you analyzed this dream, you would tell me I’m on a journey through the depths of my subconscious. You would be right.
I am a plotter. I survey the land, measure the depths, and calculate the constellations. I am a pantser. I leave behind the diagnostics to plunge in and discover the wavering depths of story.
Another Word for Forward
This is my first confession: I’ve spent more time in this last year trying to define what kind of writer I am than doing actual writing.
I want to be a plotter. In real life I came to intimately know the power of to-do lists and preparation. Colorful index cards and the phantasm that is Scrivener lured me like a siren song. I spent months planning a dark fairy tale only to discover it wasn’t the story I wanted to write at this moment, not yet. Not the if I had time to write one book what would it be book.
I tried to plot my current manuscript, but each time something stopped me. Depression. My father’s cancer. More depression and all the wins and losses of daily life that can enrich our writing all while draining our power supply.
I tried pantsing. Familiar territory for someone who for years self-identified this way. It was all false starts and a brooding sense of failure. I wondered if my love for writing and this story in particular was a clichéd tale of star-crossed lovers.
What kind of writer was I, and why was I compelled to label myself before I could move forward?
Confession number two: I suck at achieving middle ground. Not because I believe the world revolves in black and white, but because I have a knack for playing the devil’s advocate. I can you give you compelling reasons to be a plotter or a pantser. [Read more…]