There are two extremes of writers out there – the ones who plan and detail like crazy and the ones who fly by the seat of their pants. Much like other polar opposites – like liberal/conservative, shy/outgoing, hot/cold – most people fall somewhere in the middle but lean more toward a particular side. Neither side is perfect or more right or more wrong. It’s what works for you as an individual.
Me? I lean more toward the “pantser” side.
I recently read a book release by an author where she talked about writing the book. She mentioned things like, “I laughed out loud when Mike (the male lead) whispered in my ear.” I love that mental image because sometimes that is exactly what I feel like happens to me. My characters and story talk to me.
I have tried to map out every detail of a story before, and I really struggle to write it after I do that. I feel so restricted, so hemmed in by what “has to happen” that the story doesn’t flow for me. I can’t hear my characters talking to me. But if I leave it too loosey-goosey, with no plan on where to go, I spend a lot of time spinning my wheels.
So now I do a little planning. I always start a book with a general idea of the key points – characters and their development, major turning points, beginning and end. I will often have specific scenes in mind and I know where I want those to go in the book. But all the stuff in between… it comes to me as I go.
Sometimes where a story goes is as much of a surprise to me as it is to you. And I love that. I love discovering my characters and story along the way. Do I frequently have to go back and change parts I’ve already written to go with my new direction? You bet. Do I believe the story is better because I’m flexible enough to roll with it? Absolutely.
So to the writers out there… which are you and why?