Friday, March 7, 2014

Bossy Bossy Books

by Charlee Vale

You'll hear it time and time again from authors: Every book is different, every one has to be written differently. But what does that mean exactly?

In general there are two schools of thought: 'Planners' and 'Pantsers.'

The Planners have a structure in place ready to tackle the story in their head, wrestle it into the ground and make it see reason. They outline, they build worlds, they do character sketches, they draw themselves a very detailed map to the story so that they don't get lost.

The Pantsers follow the story as it comes to them. They discover the world they are creating as the character leads them along. Sometimes they have to backtrack from a dead-end, and sometimes they have to fast forward. Everything is very fluid. Where the wind blows, they follow.

However, most people fall somewhere in the middle on the scale between Planner and Pantser, and create their own style when it comes to tackling stories.

But what if we're thinking about it wrong? What if instead of analyzing how we approach a book, we need to think about how the book approaches us. In looking at the projects I've worked on over the last two years, I can see that each one has hit me in a very different way, which led to a different process.

One project hit almost in it's entirety on a road trip. I wrote a synopsis when I got home that dictated the entire story. (The closest I've ever come to outlining) Another came in the form of the book sequel, a book I had to write in order to get to my original idea, and the drafting was a binging surge of words over 4 weeks. The latest has come to me in  snippets. Demanding to be written by and in journals and on scraps of paper and diner napkins. All by hand.

Sadly, these stories didn't care if I was a Planner or a Pantser, they were just demanding to be written the way they wanted to be written. In a way, it can be a very freeing sensation letting the story dictate the method.

If you've got an idea up your sleeve, or are starting a new draft try listening to the way the story wants you to tell it. It may be more different than you think.

Have you ever had a vastly different experience writing between projects? I'd love to hear your stories in the comments.

Charlee Vale is a Young Adult writer, bookseller, agency intern, photographer, and tea lover living in New York City. You can also find her at her website, and on Twitter, and being bossed around by her current manuscript.


Jane Jazz said...

Such an interesting post and I was fascinated by the different approaches your writing projects needed... especially the one that 'demanded to be written by and in journals and on scraps of paper and diner napkins'.
I'd add one more to your list, as the characters from my novel Tantalus were whispering their tale to me day and night, insisting I tell it their way, not mine!

JeffO said...

I've never thought of it that way. However, as a Wingman, I normally just write it as it comes. I have two projects in process where I may actually have to sit down and plan out a little more.

Debra McKellan said...

I pantsed the heck out of my fantasy WIP. lol

When it came to my vampire WIP, because it was a sequel to someone else's book, I had to plot it out so I knew where I was going with it.