There are two standard ways to write a novel: the “Planner” method and the “Pantser” method.
Planners have (or claim to have) everything planned out. They figure out everything first, outline every detail, and then write the book. This method will work because it creates a pile of text with sufficient words and all the parts of a story. But, there is no Ah-hah moment. It‘s all laid out. Where’s the joy?
These books are often plot driven. Too often I see characters bent to fit a preconceived idea even though the author might feel the character would do something else.
Pantsers “just write”. Real Pantsers don’t have a plan… Writing this way is possible, but you at least need an idea!
Steven King is a Pantser done right. He starts with an idea or interesting concept, finds a starting group of characters, and then allows them to behave realistically.
This method can work. But, you need to have a good concept, and a handle on your characters (a handle… not a complete plan (please skip the second grade report card!)). You can succeed if you have the right skills and mindset.
But, people think the Pantser method is easy, “you jump in and write”. What they miss is that people like Steven King have had a lot of practice and an idea or concept in mind. Without those your story has a good chance of acting like a cow that finds a hole in the fence.
Being a Pantser takes work, it’s just different work. But, I like the freedom for surprises (that’s part of the fun).
Unless you‘re willing to put in the work; all I can say is “MOOO!”
When writing, I try to hold the middle ground. I have a situation and some big challenges planned. I have a handle on my characters and key events thought out (“fixed points in time” for you Doctor Who fans…). But, I don’t plan everything.
In one spot I may say, “Here my characters move out of their comfort zone into their adventure.” In another I may ask, “If my characters do this, how does the government react?”
I have a plan; however, I also allow things to move and grow as I learn about my characters and story.
This is the “Plantser” method. You plan (you know won’t happen), but you also leave yourself some freedom for the spontaneity and surprises that can make those great moments of literature.
Starting on the first, I’m once again doing NANOWRIMO dear reader. You might not hear much from me until December. My plan is here. And, I’m looking forward to having my questions answered!
I invite you to join us in the fun and madness of trying to write a 50,000+ word book in a month dear reader.
The choice is yours. And, I’ll see you next post!