Thursday, February 14, 2008

Planner or plunger?

Writers often debate about whether or not to plot their books ahead of time. Some swear by planning ahead...they write extensive outlines, because they like to know what's going to happen when they sit down at the computer each day. They revel in taking their characters down a certain road. Other writers refuse to plot their books before writing them. They'd much rather discover the plot right along with the story's characters as they type.

Then there are those wacky writers, like me, who've done both. When I sit down to work on a book, I have an idea about the characters and a good sense of how their story starts (the first couple of pages), but only a vague notion of how I want that story to end. I have to sit at the computer and write to figure out everything that happens in between.

I explained this process to a non-writer friend recently, and she said she wasn't the least bit surprised. She explained, "You spend forever on TripAdvisor to research hotels before you travel, but once you get somewhere, you skip guided tours and wander. So your writing style makes sense to me."

Her comment made me wonder: Do people--writers or not--fall into these types? Are there planners, are there plungers, and are there those who always plan certain things (hotels) while plunging in at other times? Has anyone ever made this kind of observation about you?

And for writers...do you find your writing style is reflective of how you handle other areas of your life?

7 comments:

jennifer echols said...

Cool observation. I guess I'm a mix too. Right now I'm in the middle of writing three book outlines. I need to do this so the series will have cohesion--I don't want to run out of conflict and feeling like I'm jumping the shark by book 3. But within that framework, I'm going to have a blast surprising myself with what I type each day.

I also plan where I'm going on vacation, get the plane ticket and the hotel way ahead of time, and shun the guided tour. Take me with you Niki!

Emily Marshall said...

Yeah, I'm definitely mixed to. I like the trip analogy and have heard it before, and I think it fits me well, since I love to travel. I'm like you. I have an idea of the big stuff (hotels, location I'm going, etc.), but when I get on the trip or in the book, I like to play around and not have everything so organized for those unexpected adventures.

So yes, I definitely think my writing style depends on how I do other things in my life. What's interesting is that it always changes, too.

Nancy K said...

I am the planner of all planners. Not only do I do an extensive outline (most of my editors appreciate this because we can get the kinks out at an early stage) but each night I plot out the pages or scenes I plan on doing the next day. Extra steps, I know, but I sit at the computer with more confidence each morning. I write a lot of younger books (At the moment I have two series running simultaneously and a third in the planning stages). They have very definite page counts for each chapter and the books themselves, so you can't drift off the way you can when you're writing for older readers.

I've always been a control freak anyway. . .

Erin Downing said...

You describe me to a T (tee?). This is EXACTLY the same way that I write. Just now, in fact, I'm working on trying to get an outline down, but keep finding myself just writing. I guess it's planned in my head and now I just want to run with it. The character just keeps coming out to hang out, so I feel bad making her hang out while I outline, you know? (Now I sound CRAZY! As though my characters sit at the end of my bed while I write...freaky).
E.

booklady said...

When I sit down to write, I usually have pieces of a few different scenes, because my characters have been talking to me for a while. I have an idea for the beginning and the end, and the major turning points in the story. Then I just have to work my way to each of the turning points without going crazy, rambling too much, or running out of things to say. Oh, and I use Document Map on MS Word ALL THE TIME. As I think of each scene, I write a few words about it in a header, then write the scene under the header. That way Document Map keeps a handy little up-to-date outline for me. Makes me feel so darned organized!

Wendy Toliver said...

I wish I were a more organized person in general, but I'm kind of an as-the-wind blows type. When I write, I recently started writing synopses and what I've found most interesting is I write my book and then I find all these fun little morals and deeper meanings that just come forth naturally.

Micol Ostow said...

I am a plannity-plannerson, in all areas of my life. BUT you have to be willing to let the story evolve, I find, which is a really fun part of the process.