Enzo Stephens: Planning Vs. Pantsing, Part Dalawa

Writers Unite!’s Featured Blog Series!

Writers Unite! is fortunate to have among its members, many bloggers, and essayists who write content about the writing process or their author’s journey or both. We will be posting their articles for your information and enjoyment. Please read and comment, visit the author’s website, blog, or Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and share!

Part “Isa” and Part “Dalawa” are Tagalog for 1 & 2 respectively.

Planning Vs. Pantsing, Part Isa

Planning Vs. Pantsing, Part Dalawa

By Enzo Stephens

When we go on vacation to some warm locale with swaying palm trees and soft, gentle ocean breezes and sand that likes to mysteriously work its way into surprising anatomical crevices, one of the first things I say — usually with a huge sigh, is “Ahhhh, how wonderful it is to not have to wear pants.”

Kind of crazy for a dude to say, but there it is.

The fact is that for a guy (and maybe for the ladies too), pants are binding.  We have to loosen our belts (that hold our pants up) after chowing down that four chili-cheese dogs (topped with fresh onions and cayenne pepper — do it right!), because those damned pants are like a noose around the waist.

So, do you feel me when I breathe that sigh of relief upon arrival at some tropical locale?

As my well-traveled friend would say, “You and your first-world problems.”

So all that said, in the writing community, the inverse of that diatribe is the truth; pantsing is liberating.

“Pantsing” is a term used to describe unplanned writing.  In short, the writer gets an idea or a scene in their mind and then they just… let it fly.

At one time this method used to bug the bejeebers out of me.  Why? Because every time I’d sit down with a fabulous idea and crank it out, it would pretty much just die on the vine.  Ten, fifteen pages of outstanding prose that just peters out.

To me, that was a fail in my quest to write the Great American Novel and supplant Mr. King as the Great American Novelist.  It slew my dream.

It’s a tenuous connection, but then my writing technique was pretty immature back then.  To me, it was all about causality, and if I was going to succeed in my writing career, I needed a different approach.

Ergo the planning method, and I totally embraced that method, and it was a huge success for me.  Again, causality. The more I crafted full-scale novels, the more I embraced planning.

But here’s the thing…

Writing stopped being fun.  It became a job.

And that just took the wind out of my sails, big-time.  I didn’t talk about these fantastic stories at parties anymore; I wasn’t driven by inspiration anymore.  

Over 60 books later and I was feeling pretty burnt out, although the process I’d developed for myself was a significant success, I was — dare I say, bored.  

For a fiction author to get bored?  Well, that just sucks.

Well, then the host of this blog site flashed a picture on Facebook that I saw for the first time last February, along with the words ‘Write The Story,’ and I thought, ‘well, that’s a cool idea.’  Three thousand words? I can do that in my sleep (which was truer than I care to admit).

So what’s the first thing I did?  I pulled out my planning tools.

UGH.

I wrote some ridiculous drivel about the wonders of paint or some such nonsense; read it and promptly threw it in the crapper.  Now, all of a sudden, this little exercise became difficult.

I kvetched about it to my closet confidant, and after she let me blather on for gawd-knows-how-long (and several gin & tonics), she kicked back in her chair and laughed at me.  That kind of got my dander up a bit, but then she ’splained…

“Remember all those times when I’d ask you to tell me a story to help me fall asleep?”

“Yeah, but they put you to sleep, so they must have sucked.”

“No, doofus!  You came up with that stuff on the fly!”

DING

My goodness, that is One.  Wise. Woman.

In other words, I was pantsing, even when I didn’t know the term.  And I dare say that all of us writers do it. It’s inspiration!

That said, I tackled that Write The Story exercise again with gusto and cranked out a strange, rambling dissertation on the possible sinister history of the room in the picture prompt, and I never looked back.

I have re-discovered the JOY in writing, and have since put together some really weird and fun short stories that have helped me to truly express myself; to build a level of depth and humanity in my characters that seemed to have disappeared over the years, and so on and so on.

Pantsing has helped my writing skills evolve to the Next Level (well, in my mind anyway).  I have no idea if I’ll ever supplant Mr. King as the next Great American Novelist, and frankly, I really don’t care.

Because writing is fun again!

Now I am able to combine the best of both and that’s where my path to creation of inspired novels lie, and I’m thrilled to share here that I’ve got a series well underway.  Yes, it’s well planned and meticulous using the tools I described in Part Isa, but the specific scenes, now that’s a different story.

Those scenes are ‘pantsed,’ and by Slocum, they have been an absolute blast to write!

Planning AND Pantsing.  Try them together, and watch your writing take off!

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Next: Ghostwriting.

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Author Bio:

Enzo Stephens has a serious case of professional ADHD.  He’s a professional writer with over 60 novels ghosted and several under his own name.  He’s an active blogger and has fallen in love with knocking out short stories.
Enzo is a retired Marine and a martial arts instructor for longer than most people have been alive, and his cats, wife and kids merely tolerate his nonsense.

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For more of Enzo’s writing visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011 or check out the monthly archives here on the WU! blog.

( Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.)  

Calliope Njo: The Road of Time

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.

The Road of Time

By Calliope Njo

I looked up and saw tall buildings, at least tall enough to reach the sky. An airplane dead center of the surrounding buildings turned into a bulls-eye.

These routes, or barren roads, lead to different places and time periods. Confusing and dismal always seemed to be the impression when traveling. Someone stood on the corner, this time a girl. They existed without a name or a way of identifying themselves, but I always called them on-lookers. “The road has changed. It will be confusing. Do not worry, for your actions will set the road straight.”

“Right. Thanks.” I urged my pace and kept looking back to be sure she didn’t follow me.

When I left the road, I looked forward to seeing those buildings and that airplane in real life. Instead, I ended up at a storefront. I glanced up to read Starbucks at the top. The aroma of coffee wafted my way. The smell of coffee never changed. Some stronger than others, but it always existed. Too bad the money I had wouldn’t work in this time period. I guessed not since I didn’t see any horses.

A young woman came out jiggling something in her hand. As good as any person to ask. “Excuse me, but where am I?”

“Oh, hi. That’s easy.” She giggled. “You’re in Las Vegas on Charleston and Decatur.”

Las Vegas? Charleston and Decatur? Huh? “Thank you.”

“That’s probably more info than what you want. My Mom tells me that all the time. Looking for the strip?”

“The strip?”

“Las Vegas strip where all the big casinos are at. It’s the place to go.”

“I guess.” I shrugged without any idea. The road led me here for some reason and a tourist hot spot was a good place to start looking.

“That’s down on Las Vegas Boulevard.” Something buzzed and she brought out an electronic device from her pocket. “Oh. I gotta go. Good luck.” She ran to her automobile.

I remember them when they were first invented. They had transformed over the years, no longer awkward, but sleek and stylish with more power. Somebody named Hyundai came out with one so they must be popular.

Anyway, I had to get going. That Las Vegas Boulevard might be the place to be and to start looking. 

The sun changed while I walked. My feet couldn’t go anymore so I sat on an enclosed seat. A large automobile came up and opened its doors. People left and boarded before it closed its doors and moved. The numbers on it indicated nothing and only added to an already long list of items I would need to know.

It had been a while, and it didn’t look like any visitor area I’ve been in. Tourist areas always had people dressed in clothes from the local shops, with or without something to record their experience and I didn’t see any of that.

A glance to my left revealed a green sign that said Shadow Lane. Without a clue to start me where I wanted to go, someone left a big building. I didn’t see the sign but the tag on the shirt read University Medical Center with David S. underneath. Maybe this time I wouldn’t sound so bad.

“Excuse me,” I said, as I waved in his direction. “But I’m looking for Las Vegas Boulevard. Could you tell me how to get here?”

“Just straight down the street. You still have a little bit to go. If you show me your phone, I can help to locate it.”

“I don’t have one.”

“Oh. Well… I think there’s a bus that goes down there. Good luck.” He got into an automobile and left.

Maybe that’s what those big things were, but some people dropped money into a box and I didn’t have any. Not from this era. Someone had to be willing to trade.

After a number of questions to a lot of different people, all of them told me to go to a pawnshop. Trade whatever it was for cash. I could do that. I searched around for one and found it.

A search in my pocket revealed a one dollar bank note, a fifty-cent piece, and a half-dime piece from the 1830s. I didn’t expect to get anything for them.

The man behind the counter took a long time to look at them. He even got out a special eye piece. After that, he told me it wasn’t often he would get things like this in such good condition before leaving me to come back with more money than I expected.

With the means to board a bus, I found another covered bench and one pulled up. After a brief conversation with the driver, I found out the bus I needed would be on its way and stopped at that location.

That bus disappeared, and another one came up with Las Vegas Strip on the front. I boarded when everyone left and found a seat. It wasn’t comfortable but it would take me where I needed to go.

At last, I achieved my destination and felt excited. All I had to do was find the overpass to get back on the road of time.

Lots of people from various places walked around. Energy surged around me so it had to be it. All of these buildings had different ways to attract individuals. One even had a pirate show or the promise of one.

I didn’t feel exhausted anymore. The surrounding energy gave me the extra life I needed. Still hungry though when my stomach growled.

There were the forgotten ones that dug around in large bins, trash containers by the smell of it. I did what they did when a man tapped my shoulder.

“Hey, don’t do that. If you come with me, I can get you a cheeseburger if you help me clean up.”

There wasn’t a reason for me to doubt him so I followed him to a shop. “My… associate or coworker, whatever, left me with all of this mess to clean up before closing. So if you give me a hand I’d appreciate it. Deal?”

“Sure.” It didn’t look hard.

It was a lot of sorting and stacking shelves. Nothing that I hadn’t done before. This was better than the stalls I used to clean. At least this was cleaner.

“Oh man. Thanks. While you were clearing the floor, I left to get the food.” He held up a white McDonald’s bag. “Your Big Mac meal.”

I took it from him and smelled the inside of the sack. The aroma of onions made it smell so good. “Thank you for your generosity. Do I pay you something?”

“Not a problem.” He shrugged. “Have a great night.” He locked up.

I walked as I ate. The bubbly drink had a lot of sugar and flavored with something I couldn’t identify, but everything was so tasty. It didn’t take any time for me to finish it.

Night fell and everything came to life. That was when I realized why the elaborate decorations were on the front. Pure and simple entertainment for the masses.

I kept walking as I watched. The night came the longer one lingered in it. It didn’t used to as thieves struck at night in the olden days. It gave rise to the many scary stories of the time.

I climbed the passenger bridge over the street when I saw a road of time open. I could always tell by the surrounding yellow glow of the doorway. Down the bridge and onto the sidewalk by a shiny green MGM building. I did as the others did and crossed the street as they did.

The road opened up as I walked through and it closed after I passed through. I took a brief glimpse behind me as the doorway closed. These travels were done alone and one had to realize that before taking the position. It didn’t get any easier though.

A big sigh later, I turned around and continued my journey to my next stop.

That girl again. “One journey done. One fulfillment finished. Now would be the time to go the straight and narrow. Be careful of those who linger.”

I waved and kept walking. If somebody told me who these people were I would feel much better. They always left me with the shivers.

I still had the money in my pocket and should have left it to the man who let me work for him. The more forward one goes the clearer hindsight becomes.

The final door opened and I walked through. I looked up to see those tall buildings and that airplane. This had to be where I was meant to be. The only thing left for me to do was to get acquainted.

Lots of people walked around with yellow painted cars with numbers on top in the streets. The energy was not as full here as it was in Las Vegas. With so many people, there had to be as much if not more than that.

All of these buildings stretched up to the sky. I had been paying so much attention to them I didn’t notice the woman I bumped into.

“I am sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.”

She smiled. “That’s OK. I wasn’t either. The name’s Lisa. Yours?”

“My what?”

“Your name. What’s your name?”

“Oh. I’m sorry. It’s Ephraim.”

“Ephraim. I like it. See ya.” She left.

An interesting smell lingered in the air. A mix of two aromas I couldn’t identify. The air turned rancid with other odors the more I walked. I found out why as I kept walking. All of these forgotten ones in the alleyways.

A man walked in my direction. His body language told me he was ready for a confrontation with his stiff shoulders and his step stomping as he walked towards me. No sign of kindness on his face as his lips curved up without touching his eyes.

Two others behind him. I had been in these situations before. No amount of compromise would get me out of these situations. The only answer would be to see who was left standing.

He stopped in front of me. Instead of saying something, the two behind him came around me. He pushed me. I didn’t do anything because I wanted to see what he had in mind. I had an idea but that’s all it was.

One of them held me as the other searched my pockets. They found the change I had and screamed at the result.

The one in front of me threw a punch. I ducked to come back up and kick his legs from underneath him. One of the two brought out a knife and swiped it in my direction.

All I needed was something to throw in their direction. Then was the time a good dirt road would’ve come in handy. I turned my head around enough to see the other one charging at me. I dropped and rolled out of the way while he ran into his partner’s knife. The one that stood in front of me ran away.

The one with the knife stood there with his mouth open. That was my chance to get away and I did.

I found an empty set of steps and sat there until the sun rose. Loud noises came in my direction. Automobiles with bright flashing lights going in the direction I came from.

That was the point I started to question if I took a wrong turn. Nothing like this was supposed to happen. Nobody promised a good beginning but to go through this? Someone had plans for me and it was going to take a while to understand what it was.

The sun came up and I left the stairs. Buildings opened, people massed the sidewalks, and automobiles filled the road. It seemed another day started.

An old man stood outside with an apron on and a broom in his left hand. “Well it’s about time you showed up. Come in. Come in. There’s a lot of work to do.”

I stood there and looked at him. “I think you have me confused with somebody else.”

“You are Ephraim. Yes?”

“Yes.”

“You somehow took a wrong turn and ended up in Las Vegas. Yes?”

“Yes.”

“Then you are the one. Come on in. We have some things to do and it is going to take a while. I am Gable and you will stay here for the time being.”

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Please visit Calliope on her blog: https://calliopenjosstories.home.blog/