When writing a novel, people fall into one of two camps. There are those like JK Rowling who plot the whole thing out in advance and there are others like Stephen King whose characters lead them through their tale.
For years I assumed I was a pantser — because that’s how I write poetry. Time after time I would get so far and then my story would run out of steam. Very frustrating.
I decided it was time to challenge my assumptions.
If The Hat Fits…
There’s no shortage of advice on offer, although some of my favourite writers offer conflicting advice. There are these two styles of thinking and creating and both work. The key is working out which type you are.
I changed course and tried writing with a different approach. It worked — I’m further on than I’ve ever managed before with no sign of the dreaded dead end. I’m excited to see the finish line rushing towards me.
Why the heck couldn’t I have found this out before?
Are You A Plotter or A Pantser?
The decision about whether to plan your book or fly by the seat pants is something only you can decide. It’s probably a personality trait, although what’s weird is that I assumed I would work best using an approach that worked well in other areas of my creative life.
Turns out that was wrong.
I’ve knocked together a quick quiz for you to do. Use it to get a sense of which way you might lean. It’s just a prompt — you must do some further thinking and then testing — but it helped me to figure out where I was going wrong.
What About Me?
I like to be spontaneous and when I’m writing poetry that’s where I begin. I jot down my thoughts and allow words to flow. Later on I come back to what I’ve written and work to put shape and form together.
I’ve always written poetry — my fiction writing has been more intermittent. I always assumed this was because my day job’s demanding and I didn’t have the mental capacity to commit to long-form fiction.
Now that I’m in the middle of writing my current novel that was incorrect. This time I have worked out the whole story in advance. When I sit down to write these days, I know what I’ve got to do.
That’s what made the difference.
So, it turns out I’m a plotter.