There’s this online place I visit, sometimes once a day, sometimes more – which is likely too much for my own writing good. This online place is agent Janet Reid‘s blog. I found her several years ago when I “entered” my serious writing stage. Sometime back in 2011, I think. She recently was awarded a very nice spot as one of the top 101 blogs for writers by Writers Digest. Her blog is simply one of the best places for writers of all levels to visit. Many of you out here already know this, but for those who don’t, or haven’t stumbled across her site yet, I say that because 1)she’s a top notch literary agent, 2)she tells it like it is, 3)with humor 4)and a dash of snark, and 5)she’s an overall industry expert. (As to #5, this is my opinion and I know many others who feel the same way.)
Anyway, recently on one of her posts, folks started commenting, and like we tend to do, off topic it went. We try to be good, and stay relatively in the same stratosphere of what she was posting about, but sometimes…meh, not so much. That particular day there was a comment by one of the writers who said he “writes from the hip.”
I never did jump into the fray on this, because the Shark (a.k.a. Janet Reid) who also created Query Shark for anything and everything you ever wanted to know about writing a query, stepped in to remind everyone to stay on topic, keep individual comments to 3 or less, and no more than 100 words. Often, too often, we get very wordy out there.
So here is where I wanted to add my two cents to that post’s off topic comments. Like everything else with writing, there really is no right way, and no wrong way. We each find OUR way and if it works for us, great. First, because there are some who are now reading my posts who may not know a couple terms I’m going to use, I’ll briefly explain them.
Plotter – one who writes an outline, or synopsis of their book, beginning to end. Plotters might carefully construct their story chapter by chapter, with the primary scenes/action and even a bit of dialogue or setting in each. Or some might write a synopsis, knowing essentially what happens at the 50,000 foot level, from beginning to end. The synopsis could be anywhere from 4-10 pages.
Pantster – likely self-explanatory, but for clarity, this is a writer who writes “by the seat of their pants.” They don’t know from point A to point B what is going to happen. They figure it out as they go along. They sit and they write, feeling their way through as to what fits, or not.
Now that I’ve set all this up, what I wanted to say in the discussion/comments the other day is…I think we really do both. In other words, it’s a mish-mash using both styles or techniques. For instance, when I wrote DIXIE DUPREE, I said I used the pantster style. I did it with book two as well. BUT. Although I didn’t have my beginning, middle, ending nailed down in either, I did plot them to a degree, along the way. In other words, I had to stop writing and plan/figure out where the story needed to go. I would decide, okay, Chapter X and Y needs to have this happen, and then I would write.
My latest WIP, THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET is plotted. I wrote a synopsis for it, which is about 4 to 5 pages detailing major events, and (yay!) I’ve stuck to it for the entire book. But here’s the thing, despite the synopsis, there is a massive amount of writing and work to turn those 4-5 pages into a full blown story. I know what I want to happen, but there is all that missing detail.
I was talking about the sandwich method of feedback on JR’s blog in another post, and in some ways, working with an outline brings to mind a sandwich method too. You’ve got the bread, but nothing in between. You still need meat, cheese, and whatever else in order to have a sandwich. Otherwise, all you have is…two slices of bread. Even with my handy dandy synopsis, I knew nothing about how I wanted my main character to get out of a predicament, or how she would meet various characters. Hey, some of those characters who showed up weren’t even in the outline. Hmmm, that seems a bit pantster’ish to me.
Writing a book is blending a bit of both pantster and plotter techniques, at least that’s my take on it.