Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Process, or How I Write

I'm a planner. Always have been. It's hard sometimes to be a planner, especially when life can be so... unpredictable. I like to know what is going to happen and when it's going to happen and how it's going happen. This shows up pretty much every where. If we go on vacation, I've made lists of the things to bring, the things to do, sometimes, even a daily schedule. (I don't share that with any one. It's mostly just for me.) Being a planner means that I can find order out of chaos. I feel confident when I know where I am going with things.

In some ways, it's annoying to have such a desire for order because we never end up having things exactly the way I planned. Like on our vacation last summer. I got sick. We had to spend an entire day with me sick in the car. You can't plan that. The biggest downfall of being a planner is that there is a certain amount of expectation that comes when you have a plan. If things don't match up to those expectations, disappointment is almost inevitable.

With this in mind, I've tried two different approaches to my writing, one for each of the first drafts I've written. When I wrote Ella, I had a very vague idea of what I was doing. I didn't really do more than write down a couple of notes for the characters and maybe the first few chapters to get it going. Other than that, I didn't really plan. I would get to a point in the story where I had no idea what was going to happen next, so I'd talk to my husband a little, get a glimpse of something, then start pounding away again on the keyboard. It worked. The story is good. It's really short for a novel. (Only about 40,000 words, but editing will fix that.) I love the story, though, and the spontaneity of creating it.

My second story, Beauty, was extensively planned. I had notes for every chapter. I had notes for every character. I had everything lined up from start to finish and I followed the outline almost completely. With that kind of direction, I poured out a novel (50,000+ words) in just over a month. It is cohesive, well-plotted, and kind of predictable. I think I went the easy route with it.

I can't say that one way is better than the other. I haven't started editing Ella really, and I will probably want to go through and plan better where it ends up. with Beauty, I'm editing and not planning where it goes so that it gets some of that spontaneity. So, it turns out, I'm only sort of a planner. I have to plan enough to get direction, but not enough to prevent new ideas from happening. I think the fun part of this process is finding the balance.

So, what works for you? Do you plan? Do you wing it?


Elana Johnson said...

Oh, I just wing it. I'm a pantser all the way. I'm a real planner in my real life, like schedules and all that. But writing? I just can't think that far ahead. So I just sit down and write. :)

Kayeleen said...

You'd think it is the same as real life, but it really isn't. Pretty funny, if you ask me.