Are you a plotter or a pantser?
By the way, I can’t take credit for that wonderful word “pantser” – I first heard it at the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference in Greenwich in 2010, from the writer Kate Hardy. You can find Kate here, www.katehardy.com
A pantser is the opposite of a plotter – it means that you’re writing your novel by “the seat of your pants”, or “into the wind” (wind, pants… sorry, no pun intended!).
I’ll admit to being a plotter through and through, creating detailed outlines broken down chapter by chapter, which may each include the setting for that particular section, the characters in it, whose viewpoint it is, what needs to be researched further, etc. I sometimes also include the discoveries the characters will make and the emotions this will produce, words of dialogue I’ve already “written” in my head, and how the section will end, i.e. on a cliff-hanger, raising further questions for the characters, or on an emotional note. All of it colour-coded so I can reference it at a glance.
Here’s an example of what one of my outlines may look like:
Well, I did say I like to be in control!
Do my characters ever surprise me? Sure they do, but I’m a hard taskmaster and quickly bring them to heel. Having said that, there are times when they insist on going in a different direction to where I want them to go, or saying something they weren’t meant to say. In such circumstances, no matter how hard I try, I can’t get them to toe the line, and I have to let them have their way. Despite my despair being the parent of such unruly children, interestingly the novel always works out for the better. It’s one of those weird and wonderful things about being a writer – you can plan your book, but you can also adapt when you have to.
And people who don’t write will think you’re off your trolley when you mention that you’ve just had a blazing row with someone who… er… doesn’t exist, but, hey, that’s par for the course.