You frequently hear me say that I'm a Pantser (and proud of it!) but what does that actually mean? What does my writing process actually entail? If I don't plan anything out beforehand, how do I manage to create a coherent and consistent story?
I'm often asked about my writing process, and my first instinct is to respond with, "I just write," or "It just happens." But when I think about it, I do have a writing process, weird and convoluted though it might be. It varies slightly with each project, but I'm going to share the basic parts of my process that seem to stick with me through each book. Who knows, you might get a couple ideas of things to try yourself!
When I first get a basic idea, I write it down and stick it in a folder that houses all of my ideas. When I'm ready to take an idea and expand it into a book or novella, I take it out and create a folder specifically for that story. (These are physical folders, by the way. The more you learn about me, the more you'll realize that I like to do things away from the computer as much as possible!) In this folder, I also house any photos that helped inspire the idea.
Once that is complete and at hand, I begin writing. I really can't tell you any details of how that actually happens or how I know what to write next. This really, does just happen. Ideas for next scenes, plot points, character developments, etc., just come to me as I write. Many times, I look back and wonder how I managed to come up with certain things!
This is what it means to be a Pantser vs. a Plotter. I can't sit down and plan or outline things ahead of time. My brain doesn't work that way. I've tried, and nothing happens. It's too constricting for me. I do nothing but stare at a empty page and wallow in misery at the barren wasteland that is my brain.
As I write, I need to feed off the ideas and the characters. They lead me through the plot, as if they're telling me their story and I'm merely a transcriber.
It's rather difficult to explain, and I probably just made every Plotter in the universe cry tears of blood, but it's what works for me, and I'm going to stick with it!
That being said, I do have to instill a certain degree of organization. Otherwise, ideas will run rampant, inconsistencies will be excessive, and editing will be a nightmare.
To keep myself in check, I take LOTS of notes as I write, organize them, and place them in the book folder or series folder, depending on which I feel is a better fit. Things that would apply to the entire series, such as world building or magic systems, go in the series folder. Things specific to the book, such as notes on specific events, go into the book folder.
"What kind of notes do you take?" you might ask. It's a great question, so here we go!
- CHARACTERS: As characters are created or become involved in the story, I create a note page for them and put it in the folder. Any detail that emerges about them while I write, be it physical features, characteristics, background, abilities, etc. are added to the character's page.
- MAGIC SYSTEMS: Any time I write something involving the magic system, I make a note. This includes details such as restrictions, limitations, potency, etc. In the Ilvania series, each color of lightning or fire has a different strength, so I made notes for that. In the Dragonath series, not only do I have the regular magic system, but there is also Vantelaith (a combination of herbalism and magic where the user calls upon souls of the dead) as well as dragons who have their own unique magic. I took notes for each of the 3 systems, making sure to keep track of which herbs were used for which remedies and what elemental spells each color of dragon could conjure.
- WORLD: I take notes of descriptive and logistical details of the world. Things like the weather in certain areas, names and locations of cities and countries, appearance and layout of buildings, etc., are all important. I usually make an extremely crude while the world comes together, which is invaluable to me while writing. A visual helps me easily reference topography and distance which is helpful while characters are traveling.
Another extremely important part of my writing process is creating a brief outline as I write.
At the end of every chapter, I add a brief description of the chapter as well as each scene to my outline. This helps me easily find which chapter or scene certain events take place and reference them while writing or editing. Because I write everything by hand before typing it up in Word, I don't have the built in outline features of programs such as Scrivener (which I tried using, and it drives me mad!) so this takes its place.
To sum up my writing process in one sentence, I'm basically a Plotter in reverse!
I still do all of the notes and outlines that a Plotter would do, but instead of creating them beforehand, I create them as I write. As I said before, it's rather convoluted and can be time consuming, but it's what works the best for me. If I don't take the time to make all of the notes and outlines, editing the first draft would be an absolute horror!
Are you a Plotter, a Pantser, or a bit of both? What does your writing process look like? Share in the comments!
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