Friday, 29 August 2014

I think I’m a gardener

Not in the real world sense but in the writing sense. There is an idea that you can be a story architect who plans it all out to the ‘enth degree and builds a beautiful constructed story OR you can be a person who throws out a whole lot of seeds, sees which ones come up and then prunes them or transplants them until you have a finished story.
This is often termed plotters and pantsers - as in they work by the seat of their pants.
To think of writer examples, Ken Follett - Pillars of the earth - is a plotter/architect. He starts with a plan for each chapter and then expands it all out. He talks about it here in his masterclass lectures.
He thinks it out and writes a twenty five to forty page outline. It contains everything chapter by chapter that will happen in the book. He also writes out biographies for each character. This process takes him about a month. He is famous enough to then send that outline to his agent or publisher and, if they approve, he can get paid for writing it. That’s a pretty big incentive in my eyes.
The snowflake guy, Randy Ingermanson, does a similar thing. He starts with a one sentence synopsis and expands that to one paragraph and then expands that out to one page and so on…  
I have read all about this method and I have downloaded a template for Scrivener and I have tried to use this method but… it’s just not me.
Examples from the other end of the spectrum are Dan Wells, the horror writer, and George RR Martin, Game of Thrones writer. Terrifying isn’t it? The guy who makes up the incredibly wordy, detailed and complex world of Game of Thrones is making it up as he goes along.
Dan has a rough plan, not for the story itself but for the marks it should hit. He calls it a seven point plan. He has uploaded some lectures on this to YouTube and the link is on his website. The marks are things like: the hook - the idea that grabs you as a reader, the turning point, and the resolution.
Or here for a pdf slideshow.
Brandon Sanderson, epic fantasy writer, says he is somewhere in the middle. He outlines the story but his characters emerge as he writes it. In this situation, how will my main character react?
Neither way is better than the other; they are just different.
Having tried both, I think I lean towards pantser/gardener.
My most popular fanfiction stories were written in pretty much the order they were posted with daily updates loaded as I wrote them. I had a vague idea of the ending; very vague - as in X ends up with Y and they are happy and to get there and this has to change about Y. I totally wrote Apologies in six weeks (all 90k words of it) and pulled the ending out of my ass in the last chapter and I had one review that said I had intricately planted this winding thread right through the story. I wish I had planned that, but… Nope.
Same with Best Friends share everything. I was just writing sex and then had to go back and find the story. Maybe I left some hints for myself? I don’t know… but I had to make sense of it all later.
I have been trying to be more planning oriented and in the process I think I have squished myself worrying about what my main character’s favourite food is or whatever else I am meant to be filling out in his character sheet.
Start at the end, start in the middle, or fill out characters later - whatever. Who cares, as long as you are writing?