One of the coolest things about Twitter’s #WritingCommunity is its diversity. It’s a group of people from all over the world, at different stages of their writing journey, in a vast range of careers and fields—not to mention the innumerable genres out there.
Each of these writers has developed and continues to evolve their particular writing process for creating new story, be it a short story or a long novel, and each generally falls into one of three zones:
While some writers pay little attention to these titles, others take them as seriously as others take their Hogwarts House.
In this three-part series, I’ll be discussing the common traits of each of these writers.
In the past couple of articles, we’ve talked about Planners and Pantsers. Now, it’s time to talk about the writers who straddle the line: Plantsers.
This is the type of writer I identify as.
As I mentioned in a prior article on how my storylines develop, I’ll go into a new project with a skeletal outline consisting only of a chapter-by-chapter breakdown and a brief summary of what happens in each. I’ll do preliminary research early on, as it can help establish a basic understanding to build on as I work through the first draft, but a lot of the research I do is as I go along depending on what comes up and what I realize I need to learn more about.
As for my characters, I like to treat them as real people in my life and get to know them over time rather than to go by a set plan of who they are. For example, I started work on Bound to the Heart well aware that Eve was going to have a love of reading and an overbearing mother intent on seeing her engaged to a suitable bachelor by the Season’s end; it was not until he was mentioned in a conversation between them that I knew about her late brother, and that he was a soldier.
I feel this way of acquainting myself with my characters at a slower pace is reflective of my narration style, as I write in the third-person with the perspective of an outside observer rather than someone who knows the ins and outs of everything going on.
However, there is a side of me that is a J.K. Rowling style of Planner, which I briefly touched on in the first post of this series. Like Rowling, who had a fairly good plan in mind for the conclusion of the Harry Potter series while she was working on the first ones, I do have plans for future books of my own involving not only characters I have already introduced, but ones I have not even written yet. Often, these characters are siblings or friends of the protagonist who will be getting their turn in the starring role. One project in particular, though I have done nothing with it at this point in time, is going to follow the elder of two brothers; the younger will be getting his own story, events of which will be carrying over to the succeeding novel about his best friend. In terms of these stories themselves, I don’t have a clear direction as a typical Planner would.
Overall, I think I’m about 35% Planner and 65% Pantser. I do a fair amount of planning going into the project, but my Panster side comes out when I’m actually writing, especially in the little details of a story.
Ahead of this series, I ran a poll on my Twitter profile out of curiosity to see how others in the #WritingCommunity place themselves, and there was an overwhelming majority leaning towards Plantser. I wasn’t surprised by this result. In my mind, a writer is telling the story of real lives they themselves have not lived, and things in life rarely go according to plan. Writers might prepare for a story with extensive notes and piles upon piles of information about the tale they are to tell their readers, but the actual writing of it may not be as straightforward. New ideas may come to us, we might find new locations to explore or cross path with new characters who make it clear they want to come along for the ride, and we allow ourselves to let these become part of the story.
Writers, like readers, are along for the adventure. And sometimes, that adventure becomes more enjoyable through the detours that pop up along the way while we follow the set path to our destination.
There is no right type of writer. No writer’s method is perfect. All that matters is finding the style that works best for you, be it one where the grounds are clearly laid out with a set path to follow, one where you allow yourself to roam freely, or somewhere in the middle.