To continue the theme of what I wrote about last time, I thought it might be helpful to give some thought to the actual writing process. I must confess that I am basically a ‘panster.’ If you have never heard that term before, it refers to someone who, “flies by the seat of their pants,” meaning they don’t plan out anything or plan very little. I tend to just sit down at the computer and with little knowledge of how I am going to construct the ideas floating in my head, and just start to write. Of course, this is in contrast to ‘plotters’ who plan out their writing in outlines and carefully constructed character description.
As a pantster, my writing process is a combination of an idea for a story, a character, or even a setting. Then I envision an interesting story that could revolve around these elements. Sometimes the story is quite clear, but at other times I theoretically ask. “What is your story?” Then I allow my mind to wander and try to devise various scenarios for the elements I have identified. As I go through these mental gymnastics, I change one or more of the elements to see if that would make a difference in how the story could progress. I find mind–mapping useful during this phase, however, unless I am stuck, I usually don’t write things down.
After I have written the initial scene, things start coming together. From there I plan out the next scene. I do like to write chapter titles when I am writing a novel as this helps me to remember where I see the story going from scene to scene. I often write the name of the next chapter at my stopping point at each writing session. When writing short stories, this process is less demanding as I can write the entire story in one session.
Then comes the cleanup of the draft; including re-configuring sentences; checking spelling and grammar use, and making sure I haven’t made any major mistakes with time, or character names, or descriptions. That process may also include adding scenes or scrapping something that isn’t needed.
Then I let the story/manuscript sit for a while, days or weeks depending on the project, and repeat the process of editing. I may do this a couple more times before submitting it to an editor for their thoughts. After the editor looks at the manuscript, then it is back to work revising as needed.
I have tried to vary my story preparation and to plot more, but it just does not seem to work for me. As a pantster, I like the way the story unfolds before me and the characters, setting and the ideas evolve as my fingers spill out the story on the page. There are times when surprising things appear, or the direction of the story takes a turn I hadn’t anticipated. Most often these surprises make a much better story than I had first thought.
What is your writing process? Are you a pantster or a plotter? I’d love to hear what your writing process involves. Feel free to comment below.