As a writer, I am often asked: “Are you a plotter or a pantser?” or, if the person asking me is a fan of George R. Martin: “Are you an architect or a gardener?”
And just like many other writers, I find it hard to answer that question. See, I’m not sure if there is something like a 100% “plotter”, who really starts with a very detailed plan for their book and then sticks to it all the way through. Just as I don’t know if there are truly people who manage to write and later revise a novel “by the seat of their pants”, without any kind of plan where they are going. If those writers do indeed exist, they are extremes. Outliers. Plotters and pantsers (or architects and gardeners or discovery writers and outliners) aren’t binary categories. You don’t need to be either/or. Instead, it is a continuum. Maybe it’s even more like an n-dimensional hyperspace, because you can be an intricate planner in one aspect of your novel, but just make it up as you go along in others.
Some people love an empty page, either on screen, as a blank sheet of paper, or in a notebook, because of all the possibilities it offers: This empty page can become the beginning of a space opera. A spicy romance story. A cozy mystery. A psychological thriller. And about a thousand other things. Others find the same empty page very intimidating. What are they supposed to write on it? A space opera? A romance? A mystery? You get the idea. How much planning you need is completely up to you. If you love to dive head first into an adventure and you don’t mind getting lost in a dangerous forbidden place and having to backtrack occasionally, discovery writing might be for you. If you like to know where you are going and you want to get there in the quickest, most efficient way possible, you might fare better with some kind of plan or outline for your story.
I’ve tried many different approaches to a new novel over the years, some that involved more planning, some that were more of a blind jump off a cliff. Some of those I came up with myself, some I learned about from other writers or online. In this series I will share six of them with you. And no matter where you fall in the plotter/pantser hyper-continuum, I think there’s something here for everyone. Feel free to mix and match, though.
- The Classic Outline – Every Scene, Every Chapter
- The Zero Draft -The Complete Story, Without the Bells And Whistles
- The Beatsheet – Lighting the Beacons
- Six Scenes – Fewer Beacons Means More Adventure
- The Arena Method – If You Build It, They Will Come
- The Discovery Draft – Let Your Characters Make It Up As They Go Along