Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cut it out!!

When I was a kid, my mom used to say those words all the time. And depending on exactly how bad “it” was, she would often scream it versus say it. And she wasn’t talking about getting a pair of scissors and making paper dolls, either. These were the last three words she used before she came storming into a room, or turned around to the backseat of the car, and started dealing out punishment.

While you may not believe me, ninety-nine percent of the time, she wasn’t talking to me. Nope. I was a good kid, the only girl, and quiet. I mostly lived in my head, telling myself stories. I didn’t have any idea I wanted to be a writer, but man, I wrote books in my head. Most of those books were about a girl and some really cute guy, a good kisser, of course. And oh, yeah, the girl didn’t have brothers.

You see, it was my two brothers who got those words tossed at them regularly by my mom. Not that I didn’t have to hear them. Mom and Dad were smart. I don’t know if they made me this way, or if I was born this way, but I’m a buffer, a person who, when caught in the middle of a conflict, feels compelled to solve the conflict.

My parents would put me in charge of my brothers, and if there were seats involved, I was always in the middle. Like a weather forecaster, I would predict disasters. “You’re gonna make Mom mad, and she’s going to ground you.” Or, “Mom’s going to send Daddy in to talk to you two.” When Daddy was sent in, it was never good.

Sometimes, I was even pushed to the point that I used those three words myself. “Cut it out!” I’d yell at my brothers. Seriously, have you ever been in the backseat between two juvenile delinquents who liked to jab each other, or play paper, rock and scissors and the winner would hurt the loser and then the loser would get mad and go after the winner? Do you know how many times, I had to crawl out between a fight? If their antics didn’t involve violence, then it was usually worse.

They called them barking spiders. The game was to see whose spider could bark the loudest. Or whose spider could get the car windows rolled down the quickest. When spiders weren’t involved, they would burp. Or make barking noises with their armpits. Once, my oldest brother got his hands on what he called a liquid fart. It was some chemical in a little bottle and he would bring it on car rides and occasionally open the top and release the odor in the air.

But there was that one time when my younger brother wanted the liquid fart, but my older brother wouldn’t give it to him. So, younger brother decided to just take it. So there I am, in the backseat between my two brothers fighting over liquid fart. And it happened. They spilled it, all over the car and all over me. I was wearing a citrus-scented perfume. All day I smelled like a citrus fart. And for months, that backseat was not a pleasant place to be.

Recently, when thinking about days gone by, I realized something. Even though I didn’t know I was going to become a writer, my childhood was a training ground for my career as a novelist. I not only forecast bad things to come, I’ve matured and now I make them happen in my books. Then when things start really getting bad, I’m a conflict buffer. I have to get in the middle of my characters’ conflict and help them solve problems. Sometimes, I just have to get out of their way and let them solve their own problems. And sometimes I’m the one who yells, “Cut it out!” In “Don’t Mess With Texas”, my next humorous romantic suspense that I just finished, those three words came into play. Not to stop conflict. It was my internal editor screaming that my book was too long. Only she didn’t speak up until too late.

You see, I’m what writers call a pantser. I don’t plot, I don’t plan, most of the times I only have a vague idea of what’s going to happen on the next page. I just write, and write, until the book ends. Amazingly, most of the time, my internal editor is on duty, even though I don’t know it, and when I finally write those last words, I glance up at the word count and while I’m always over what I should be, it isn’t so bad that my editor has more than a mild heart attack. But this time, when I ended the book, I looked up and I had a heart attack. Not a mild one, either. And immediately, my internal editor, who’d obviously had been sleeping on the job, suddenly pops in and starts screaming…”Cut it out!”

So that’s what I’m doing this week. Cutting it out. Not scenes. I almost refuse to cut out an entire scene. I’m such a linear writer, that if I put something in the book and try to take it out, it creates a butterfly effect. So I cut out words and find unnecessary sentences.

So, if my childhood was my training ground, you might be wondering how I work in the barking spiders. Well, if you’ve read my books, you’ve probably noted that on occasion, I use what some people refer to as potty humor. (My non-fiction writing partner Faye Hughes refers to it as Alabama humor, although I don’t know what she’s talking about. You see, she’s from Mississippi.) Personally, I like to say that I write books about real men, who are nothing more than boys, just like my two brothers. And this book is no exception. My hero owns an English bulldog and they aren’t known for having great intestinal tracks. And let’s just say those spiders bark at some very inopportune times.

So, what about you guys? What have you been doing? Do you have some childhood memory to share? Brothers you want to complain about? Or if you are a writer, do you have problems with word count? Come on, share a little. I told you about my brothers and their barking spiders.


MiaMarlowe said...

Hey Christie! Greetings from a fellow pantser. Writing long is a blessing, not a curse. Cutting is always easier than adding. I'm amazed at the extraneous words that flow out while I'm getting the bones of the story down, but the process of slimming the manuscript down is the fun part.

krisgils33 said...

I'm not a writer, so I guess I'm not a pantser, but your blog was very funny. thanks for sharing!!

Christie Craig said...

Hi Mia!!

Okay...be looking for an email with my manuscript attached. I want to share the fun. LOL.

Thanks girl.


Christie Craig said...

Hi Krisgils33,

Thanks for stopping by. Ahh, the stories I could tell on my two brothers.


Robin Kaye said...

I'm a pantser who is trying to be a planster.

I went to Deb Dixon's GMC plotting workshop and although it works well for most people, I'm weird and it didn't work for me. I swear, nothing made sense, I thought for sure I was doing everything wrong and that I sucked. I walked out of that workshop terribly depressed.

Thank God, later that day or maybe it was the next, I saw Michael Hague (my hero) and learned his six stage plot structure. Suddenly everything clicked, I caught myself actually doing things right, and after the workshop I thanked Michael and told him he just saved my life.

It's enough structure to keep me from running into too much trouble, but not so much I feel as if the book's been written and the magic is gone.

I just have to know five turning points in the book and when in the book, and the structure tells me when those things need to happen. That keeps me on track when I'm writing.

I know that at around 25% I have to reach the Change of plans, at 50% I have to hit the point of no return. Since my books are always right around 100,000 words, the percentages are easy. Then at around 75% I hit the black moment and then my climax (the HEA) is between 90 - 99%. I've written 4 books using this structure and it always works out for me. NOTE: MH teaches this for script writing, but the only difference I've found is the first 10% (the setup) which I think of as backstory. I take that 10% and sprinkle it through the first 25%.

Now it's not rocket science--there are no firm rules, you have some wiggle room--but if you're at 60,000 words and you have yet to hit the Point of no Return, you might have a problem.

Anonymous said...

No brothers, but a sadistic older sister. She loved to try to scare me by making Jaws music or eerie Friday the 13th 'chi chi chi ha ha ha' sounds. Then, later, my parents would find her dragging me (who was sound asleep) across the hall to her room. She claimed that I was scared and so I needed to sleep in her room with her. LOL.

Thanks for the laugh, Christie.

Christie Craig said...

Hi Robin,

I'm love hearing how other writers write. When I look at my completed books, I see I do a lot of the things, using plot points and black moments. And if I ever get stuck, or feel as if I'm floundering, I start looking at all the different plot approaches.


Thanks for the post. I can't wait to discuss plot and all in detail with you.


Christie Craig said...

Hi Jbrayweber,

Too funny girl. I can't see anyone running over you. Did you ever get even with your sister?

Thanks for stopping in.


Terri Osburn said...

I used to think I was a pantser and then figured out I'm a total plotter. Which explained why I wasn't getting anything done. Now I do a little of both, but I have to get that storyboard filled in so I at least know what scene is next. Otherwise, I sit and stare and get nowhere.

I have two brothers but they are much younger. In fact, the youngest I've never even lived with. My sister and I are closer in age and we fought like crazy. I still remember my dad's arm flailing into the backseat trying to reach us when we drove him crazy. Thank goodness those cars in the 70s were huge. And we weren't stuck in car seats so we could bob and weave. LOL!

Susan M said...

I never had any brothers, so you can immagian what a shock it was raising a son. The fact that I waited eight years to have my next kid should be a clue.

My son and daughter always got along okay, but didn't really have much to do with each other. He was out of the house by the time she was eight.When she had her son, she wasn't prepared for a boy either.

She never let him watch violent TV or have a toy gun, etc. She thought this would make a difference. Wrong.

By age three, when the kid next door came over to play, they would find a long narrow piece of styrofoam and use it as a sword, chasing each other around the yard.

"No, no," she would say. "Let's pretend it's a balance beam and walk on it, or jump over it, or use it as the finish line in a race."

This worked for about one minute, then they picked it up and started hitting each other again. She called me almost in tears. What had she done wrong as a mother? Was her child doomed to become the unibomber?

There's just a fundimental difference between boys and girls and you know it from day one when you change your little angel's diper and he pees in your face.

Christie Craig said...


While I am a pantser, I think I really do a lot of plotting in my head. I think I plot more using character more than I do plot. If that makes sense.

I really didn't argue with my brothers. They were always too busy arguing between themselves.

Thanks for stopping by.


Christie Craig said...


((There's just a fundimental difference between boys and girls and you know it from day one when you change your little angel's diaper and he pees in your face.))

It's called defensive diapering!!! LOL. Thanks for the laugh, girl.


Loretta Wheeler said...

Good mornin' Christie!

I loved the blog, it was a definite blast from the past!:)...I'm a pantser too, and find it really amusing as the story unfolds and I begin the tap dance inside my head of, can I DO that? I love it when I give myself permission to do whatever I want...and choose not to "cut it out":) It's such a liberating feeling, because like you, I always behaved when I was young:)
We're all over the place now though, aren't we gal?!:)

Loretta Wheeler (ZuZu;)

Francyne said...

Can't identify with the fighting brothers. I only had one and we hardly ever exchanged angry words. He's as sweet then as he is now. But did enjoy your blog, because I'm seeing my kids in it. Where did I go wrong. When they were wanting to kill each other, I was wondering if I should just step out of the way. Come on over and read my blog some time.

Sandy said...

Lol Another pantser here.

What I'm doing? Hmm. I'm trying to write a humorous short story of 15,000 words or more. The problem is I'm not funny. How do you write funny?

My brother, little kid, he fell into the out house one time dressed in his Sunday suit. We never let up on that story. lol

Unknown said...

Barking spiders, oh the horror! Especially if they get you with your mouth open...

I'm a pantster too. But I cut as I go. The other day I deleted 10K. My critique partner always comes close to having a stroke when I do this. :) I go back until I find where it doesn't work and I razor from there.

If I just go over word count... well, that's not usually a problem. :)

Christie Craig said...


We are all over the place now and I love it. I'm gonna love it more when this book is down to size and I've hit the send button.

Thanks for dropping in.


Christie Craig said...

Hi Francyne,

Thank goodness my two kids were far enough apart that they didn't argue or fight. The funny thing is I always thought one of them would have eventually killed the other, but nope. They are both alive and well. And still love to talk about barking spiders.

Oh, love your blog, girl.


Christie Craig said...

Sandy dear,

You can be funny. I know you can do it. I always use dialogue. Think of all the smart ass comments someone can make back and forth to each other.

Thanks for stopping by.


Christie Craig said...


Okay. . . 10K words????? I'm with your critique partner. I'd be grabbing my chest and preparing to meet my maker. LOL

In all seriousness, I have cut big chucks of scenes. Or I have gone in and decided I need to change the POV in a scene.

Thanks so much for stopping in.


Jenyfer Matthews said...

I thought I was a pantser, but now I think I have been doing what Robin Kaye described all along because I tend to know the big turning points and aim at those as I go along.

I had an older sister who liked to torment me - mostly subtle psychological stuff - but I do use the phrase "cut it out!" quite frequently with my own children :)