It’s one of the first questions writers ask each other upon meeting for the first time:
Are you a plotter…
…or a pantser
Are you a plotter…
…or a pantser
(When a bruise actually shows up on a black person, you know it must be bad.)
Anyone who’s read my blog for while knows that I ride my bicycle a lot.
I’m a cycle-commuter – I ride 8km roundtrip to work every day, as well as on various errands and social outings in and around Vancouver, where I live. With the proper outer layers, Vancouver weather is rideable 95% of the year.
Maybe it’s because it’s the first advice many of us ever received. Certainly it seems like it should be beginner advice.
I can see it perfectly: a student of sixteen or seventeen hunched over his/her desk at school, pencil in hand poised above a sheet of three-hole-punched, lined loose leaf.
(Am I totally dating myself with this memory in longhand? Do high school students even write by hand in school anymore? The pencil in this vision isn’t even mechanical).
This was the question I posted to the message board of the writer’s group I run to be the discussion topic for our next meeting.
I knew at the time of writing it that it was a provocative question – one that different people might interpret in different ways. Regardless, I was sure it would result in a lively, interesting discussion as my writer’s group meetings always are.
What I didn’t expect, however, was the overwrought response on the message board from an out-of-nowhere, aggrieved and impassioned troll.
When I’m getting ready to start a new writing project, I spend a lot of time developing and getting to know the main character. One of the things I do is write a character monologue to help get a sense of his/her voice.
With my WIP, I had the brilliant idea to include this monologue as the novel’s opening – a decision for which members of my writing group rightly called me out when I read it to them. Comments included,
“I was bored.”
“There was no action; it was just a bunch of information that didn’t mean anything to me yet.”
“I found it rather poignant.”
(I think I fell in love a bit with the guy who said that last one. However he was already taken, plus he eventually quit writing and gave up the group, which suggests he didn’t really know enough about writing craft to give me proper advice.)
It happened during a session of the writers’ group that I run. At each meeting, we discuss a specific writing-related question that all attendees are given a chance to answer.
The question du jour inquired which element of writing craft folk felt they needed to learn more about.
When it came my turn to answer, I said character voice.
Specifically, the fact that I wanted to someday write a sequel to my WIP from the first person point of view of a different character, but was unsure how to make the voice distinct from the first person narrator of my WIP.
If you go back far enough, it can be argued I never set out to write a novel period, for I never believed I’d be able to sustain a story for that length.
But once it did occur to me that I had a novel-length tale to tell, I didn’t expect for it to be a historical one.
As a result of this lack of foresight, the way I’ve gone about writing this novel (technically novels, for there’s two of them; so much for not thinking I could sustain a long story) is definitely not something I’d recommend.
There’s no one right way to write a novel, but what I’ve done may well be the one wrong way to write HF. Don’t believe me? Behold my list of what NOT to do, all of which I did, to my detriment.