Welcome to the Big Reveal
I enjoy reading author interviews, but often times they don’t ask the kinds
of questions I wonder about. So I’ve assembled a group of writers at
all levels, from un-agented to published, and every week I will
have a new question for them.
Pantser, Planner or in-between?
I’ve got a “story shelf” in my brain. It’s a visualized place where I store plotting, character development, and other tidbits. Until recent years it has been all I needed for plotting, along with the occasional napkin-scribbled note, but my brain is officially on overload. These days I write an outline including the start, finish, major turning points and about 5 or 6 major plot points, including the setting, character motives, and details. The characters are always developed in my head through conversations or placing them in specific circumstances, and I won’t write a word of the book until I KNOW them. Once I have those two tools, I launch into it, doing research along the way and expanding my outline as the story develops.
I started out as a big pantser, but the more I write the more I find that I’m outlining. For Awakened since I had already written it once I had the ultimate outline. Lol. When I wrote the collabs we loosely talked outline just so that we both knew the general direction of where we were going.
Definitely somewhere in-between. I don’t have a set process for how I work, other than I usually start with handwritten notes in a notebook before turning to the computer where I attempt to take those notes and put them in some semblance of order.
Inbetween, I think—I don’t outline and I suck at plotting, but I usually know a couple of key scenes when I start writing. I tend to get to a point when I don’t know what I’m doing, so I’m forced to stop drafting and plan out a few next scenes. Whatever works!
I’m an in-betweener. You’ve probably heard this metaphor before: If writing a novel were like traveling across the country, I know the major cities I’m stopping in and where I’m going to end, but a lot of the journey is a bit spontaneous along the way.
I’m such an inbetweener. When I get an idea I start to take notes on all of the scenes, themes, dialogue, characters, plot twists, etc. that come into my head but I realize that what I have created is not really a story but usually a vignette of interesting ideas. Then I brainstorm how to fit my story into a beat sheet (which I never fully finish but it makes me think of turning points, conflicting character goals, how to end it, etc.), and let my subconscious play with ideas, all the while just jotting things down as they come to me.
Then when it’s time to write, I start plotting by writing a couple of paragraphs each for the first three or four chapters. I go on to fully write those chapters, so that I can get a feeling for the characters, what’s working and what’s not working.
I MAY OR MAY NOT, rewrite those chapters at this point. If I think they’ll work pretty good for a starting place, I’ll just leave them and save revision work for later but if I realize that major character/plot changes need to take place, then I’ll think about it some more and rewrite those chapters.
THEN (longest answer ever, sorry!) I write my chapter summary paragraphs as fast as the ideas come to me. I’m usually writing my story along side my summary paragraphs, the paragraphs being always five to eight chapters ahead of the story writing. This allows me to adjust things as more voice and information is presented.
So in bullet point-
*Explore beat sheet
*Write summary paragraphs for first few chapters
*Write first few chapters
*Continue writing summary paragraphs while writing actual chapters a handful of chapters behind.
*Finish first draft…billion more steps to follow.
This is my version of the best of both worlds.
Are you a pantser, planner, or in-betweener?