Okay there is only one rule of writing and that is – write, everyday!
Aside from that – it really is whatever works for you.There are writing tutors who will tell you that you need to plan your book – we’ve all hear ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’.
That’s not true – I’ve written 7 manuscripts – that’s effectively seven novels. The only novels I ever planned I never wrote. Fact – you can plan the best book in the world but if you never write it – then its just a great plan.
Whatever makes you write – do that! If you don’t know what works for you – try each way and work out what works best for you.
So – what are the different types?
The planners of the writing tribe are most commonly known as ‘plotters’. They outline, plan to varying degrees their non-fiction or fiction books. James Patterson and J.K Rowling are two well known examples of plotters.
James Patterson outlines all of his books, even those he co-authors with others. His outlines are paragraphs of each and every chapter of his novel. He and his co-authors work through each chapter consecutively.
Pros of being a plotter·
- You know exactly where your book is going;
- It is easier to determine how long your book is going to take to write;
- It is much easier to see the holes in your story;
- It is easier to see in advance where there are loose ends that need to be tied up by the end of your book;
- Virtually every agent will require you to provide a synopsis – depending on what they are asking for exactly – an outline can be cut and pasted saving you having to draft a separate synopsis;
- Some advocates of plotting say that its prevents writer’s block because you know what you need to write next;
- It can help avoid inconsistencies in plot and characters;
- The editing process is usually much easier
Cons of being a plotter·
- Spending a lot of time plotting and planning can be a distraction from the actual writing that will get the book finished;
- The story can take a different turn leaving writers with a dilemma as to whether to follow your outline or off on a tangent;
- It can feel a more logical brain exercise rather than a creative process;
- Margaret Atwood says that she considers planning to be a bit like writing by numbers
The term pantsers comes from the phrase ‘flying by the seat of your pants’.
I am a pantser – I’ve taken advice twice to outline my book and both times it has felt like once the outline was done – the book was done – which it wasn’t. It felt as though it ruined the creative flow for me. I like finding out about my characters as I write. I find it exciting and not unlike reading.
Stephen King starts with a character and a circumstance for example a man’s car breaks down in a remote area – he knocks on the closest door. That’s what he started with, ALL he started with and it became ‘Misery’.
Another pantser is Margaret Atwood who says that planning her books would be too much like ‘painting by numbers’.
For every plotter there are equal numbers of pantsers. And then there are occasionally those who are ‘in-betweeners’. Those who do a version of both.
One author I met said they write about three chapters of their book while they get to know their characters without any planning. Then they stop – take stock of what they’ve written and do a basic plan of the rest of their story.
TIP: DO WHATEVER WORKS FOR YOU – WHATEVER GETS YOUR BOOK OR STORY WRITTEN IS YOUR STYLE. IGNORE ALL ADVICE TO THE CONTRARY AND JUST WRITE.
TIP: IF YOU’RE NOT SURE WHICH YOU ARE – TRY BOTH AND SEE WHICH SEEMS TO WORK FOR YOU BEST.NEITHER IS WRONG – IT REALLY IS ABOUT WHATEVER GETS YOUR BOOK WRITTEN.