One thing I love about writing and chatting with other writers is discovering the different approaches everyone takes to developing their stories: whether it be coming up with ideas, fleshing out characters, or figuring out what happens in each chapter. I love seeing what works for other people, and part of the reason is because it also gives me a chance to see if their approach might work for me too. Imitation is a form of flattery after all, right? ; )
I also love lists. And charts. So I decided to make one to describe some of the different approaches I’ve come across. There’s usually a general consensus that people either pantsers or planners, and I’ve taken that idea and added a few more categorie to flesh it out a bit. Note that this is NOT a list that is set in stone. Nor is it meant to be taken too seriously. I’m not trying to put anyone in a box here, and realize people have many different and complex writing processes, but I still think it’s fun to look at some of the similar qualities of certain types and sort of lay them out side by side. Also, I’m not saying that any one process is any better than the other. I believe any, with all their perceived strengths and weaknesses, will help a person get through a novel, and that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?
Anyway, this list in particular has to do with approaches to outlining and how one begins the actual writing. Enjoy!
5 Types of Writers
The Barest of Necessities: You don’t need to know a lot about your story before you actually start writing. As a matter of fact, you don’t really need to know anything at all about it, aside from possibly a basic idea. Got a name? Good, there’s your main character. Got a one sentence summary of your plot? Great. You’re ready to go. Have none of the above? Who cares! You’re still gonna write some words on the page until you figure it out. You embody the advice to “just write,” and get a kick out of the surprises and discoveries you make as you write. The process is fun, even if you do end up with plot holes galore, story lines that don’t connect, and many other inconsistencies. But again, who cares? For now, the most important thing is getting it down — you’ll figure everything else out later. You, my friend, take pantsing to the extreme.
The Brainstormer: While you don’t like to spend a ton of time planning for a novel, you also don’t exactly revel in the chaos that can come with figuring everything out as you write. You might start writing without a clear direction, but you certainly have to pause before you get too far so you can do some brainstorming and get to know at least the general gist of the story. You still like the unpredictability and surprises along the way, but it does help to have at least some semblance of a plan when the idea flow begins to dry up. General character sketches (name, motivation and backstory? Ready to go), general plot points (beginning, climax, resolution? Done), those are the sorts of things that help give you the extra push. You probably do a lot of this by taking notes as you go along, but it’s nothing like the intensive story Bibles outlines that some of the planners create. Because you? You’re still a pantser at heart.
The Mid-Roader: Oh you lucky little balanced writer. You are neither a planner nor a pantser because you like to do a little bit of both, and you probably do them in intervals. Start writing a bit of the story, stop and take some time to flesh out some characters. Begin writing again, hit some new surprises, stop to re-work your plot. Flitting back and forth helps you to understand both approaches pretty thoroughly, and you use that understanding to keep yourself on track with your story so that you have a pretty good idea of where you’re going to go most of the time. However, you don’t believe in devoting lengths of time to planning unless it actually needs to be done. You are right in the middle of the road and love (or hate) both approaches equally.
The Less Is Not More: There are certain parts of the novel that you have to know before you start writing or else the entire process will be incredibly difficult for you. Maybe you need to form your characters completely, maybe you need to know the exact layout of every single city in your story, or scour baby names websites, books and more to gather the perfect names for your cast of characters. You still love the surprises that come along with the writing process, but you get stressed when you have too little information. You’d rather learn as much as you can before you get too far into the story. You proudly count yourself among the other planners and cherish your numerous outlines. On the other hand, you can also get just as overwhelmed with too much planning so figuring out what to plan and what to work out later is just part of your strategy.
The All Knowing: You are serious about your outlines and the idea that it is up to the writer to know absolutely everything about the story, even if not all of the information goes into the actual writing of it. You need to know your characters better than you know your friends before you write them. You will dedicate hours to finding just the perfect name, will spend months world-building, and relish in creating chapter-by-chapter notes of what happens. It’s not that you don’t like surprises in your story, you just figure that the best way to get from point A to point B is by knowing everything about it. Some may think you are insane, but the joke is on them because you absolutely love the outlining part process! For you, it’s almost as fun as the writing.
Well, what do you think? Do you fit neatly into any one category? I personally feel like I’ve at least tried on all approaches at some point but tend to really stick with the “less is not more” approach more than others. Of course, this varies depending on what stage of the writing process I’m in, and my preference has changed as I’ve grown and matured as a writer as well. How about you? Which do you find yourself in for the most part or just at the moment? Do you think I left out any approach? How would you describe yours?
Peace, love and happy writing!