Welcome to Writeon!, where we gather weekly to discuss writing in all its forms.
One of the convenient ways of discussing how writers plan their novels is “plotter” vs. “pantser”. NaNoWriMo (the National Novel Writing Month) popularizes this. Plotters, of course, outline their plot, and pantsers write by the “seat of their pants”.
Of course, no one process fits every writer or every project, and we will often refine our process project to project. Many of the pantsers I’ve known have eventually settled on what NaNoWriMo calls a “plantser”, which is a cutesy way of saying “pantser, but with some planning of the story.”
I think of this as figuring out the story shape, and over the years, discussions of planning with other “plansters” have often been unclear. It’s hard to take a gradient from “pure plotter” to “pure panster” with lots of “planster” space in between and discuss it in depth. (Not impossible, just hard.
But I ran across a series of videos recently which add a second axis: methodological vs. intuitive storyteller. That provides two axes for placing one’s preferences, one revolving around plot, one revolving around story.
I’m still deciding whether I’ll adopt this generally in my thinking, but I find it appealing.
It’s time for a quick reminder that writing advice is personal. We’re all different people, with different ways of thinking, and writing is crystallizing those thoughts into words. Since we think differently, what works for one may not work for another. This might be useful, it might not, but it’s an interesting topic for thinking about writing. I think.
(I also still can’t believe that the video series is three years old, and somehow I missed it entirely for three years. It’s probably time to widen my inputs again.)
Here’s the playlist for Ellen Brock’s “Four Types of Novel Writers”:
There’s a 20 minute overview, and four half-hour videos, one per type. For authors still figuring out their process, it’s probably worth watching the first video.
Her four types are:
Intuitive Pantser: no plotting, no planning of the first draft; intuitive sense of the story flow while writing/editing
Methodological Pantser: needs planning/method, but the story needs to grow and develop as they work
Intuitive Plotter: needs to plan the first draft, but does so off gut feeling
Methodological Plotter: plan first draft thoroughly before writing
After hearing her descriptions and listening to the advice for all four types, I’m probably a Methodological Pantser.
As I’ve tried to find a viable process for me, I’ve experimented with strong outlining. The more detailed the outline, the more likely I am to completely lose interest in the project. All the fun of discovery has been wrung out of the story. However, I do have to know roughly what I’m trying to do. The most successful projects didn’t have outlines, but instead each had a synopsis, some character plans, and where the conflict points were.
I’d already come to the conclusion that separating plot/story development and writing, the way I’ve approached NaNoWriMo in the past, is slower. Some of the easiest planning has been where I had a scene spark in the synopsis, then sketched it out, and it clicked. Or, sketching it out, and it very obviously wasn’t going to work.
So when some of her advice for this type mirrored what I’d figured out on my own, it clicked. And the rest of the advice seemed pretty sound. I’ll be trying it out while I tackle some revision that’s really ground me down.
The specifics I’m looking at trying out are: “start editing as soon as you’re ready”, “avoid using the wordcount as a measure of success”, “doing something (anything!) is better than getting stuck”, and “embrace the chaos”. I think the latter is where I’ve been hung up the most, of late. “I should be working on [X], because that’s the next ‘step’, even though [Y] is what my fingers are trying to do on the keyboard.”
In fact, I’m probably going to simply (hah!) rewrite this whole story from scratch, using what I learned from the first draft as a guide of what I want, rather than try to revise it into shape. I’d already half decided to do it, but “embrace the chaos” is giving me a surprising amount of permission.
Happy (chaotic) writing!
Exercise/challenge: This doesn’t inspire a specific challenge, so instead I will borrow from vss365 again: “dappled” (“Shade-dappled pavements / Sunbeams playing hide and seek / Blossoms frolicking”, image in the tweet.)
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