As I’m still trying to read through my book for the challenge, I’m going to post another answer to one of the questions a local 8th grader posed to me during her “Ask an Expert” project. As a reader, I thought you might find it fascinating, and if a writer, I thought it might be helpful. So here’s this month’s question:
How do you decide how to form the book? Notes, pre-made plans, etc?
In the writing world, we have two classifications (technically three) of writers. Plotters, pantsers, and what I like to call plansters.
Plotters are the people who plan out every event that is going to happen in their book before they write it. They look at the structure of story, and determine what needs to happen when. Some do high-level plotting and just look at major turning points in the story. Others go down to the nitty-gritty of what will happen in every scene of the book.
Pantsers are those who sit down and write without anything more than a general idea in their head. They see where the story takes them, which can mean lots of revisions and edits as they get rid of rabbit trails or dead ends from the book. These writers tend to have a natural feel of story, and I really recommend new writers don’t just sit down and write. Try to think through the story and plot things out so that you can learn to understand the important elements of Story and when they happen. I spent two or three years studying story structure and plotting things out before I discovered that plotting wasn’t how my brain worked.
Plansters is a category name of my own making . We are the rogue black sheep of the writing world. We want to be plotters, but our characters just won’t allow us. I’ve discovered I cannot plan out an entire book even on a high level without my characters taking over, laughing in my face, and taking the story in a different direction than I expected. What I have discovered is I can do a high-level plan of where I need my characters to be in the next 1/4 to 1/3 of the story.
For right now, I’m shooting for my hero to join the board of a house of refuge where possible counterfeiting may be taking place so he can investigate the institution. However, I only have general ideas of what is going to happen to get him there or the order of those general ideas. So as a Planster, I am working toward that goal, but often sit down with no idea of what is going to happen in the scene I am writing until it ends up in words in front of me. This makes for slower writing, but I enjoy it.
All writers do brainstorm though. Before I sit down to write or plan, I’ll think through: What are the possibilities of this chapter? What are the promises to the reader that I need to fulfill? Are there clues I need to drop? What problems need to happen? What is expected in this chapter? What would be unexpected? I don’t always do it, but when stumped, I’ll write down every single idea that comes to my head, whether ridiculous or not and push until I have no other ideas. Then I look back at my list for anything that might be unexpected and would push my story forward in a fun and exciting way. I also do a lot of brainstorming with other writers. They help to push me to think of things in ways I never would have before. They help my stories to become better.
One thing to note is NO writer is the same. Every writer is going to develop their own methods and comfort zones for developing Story. It might even change with every story they write. If you are a new writer, spend some time studying writing craft and trying to plot out the various parts of your story. If you want to know more about story structure, I have a few posts on that on my Writing Resources Page under Story Structure.
Now, I’m off to let my characters look at my plan, laugh at me, and then go their own direction while I follow behind trying to make sense of their actions. At least every day writing is an adventure!