I came across several articles on the ‘net recently asking the question, “What type of writer are you?” Do you write by pre-planning the scenes and plot-lines within your story, i.e. are you a ‘plotter’?
Or, do you write by making-it-up-as-you-go-along, “By the seat of your pants,” i.e. are you a ‘pantser‘?
My instant response was, “WHAT?” I have the choice of being a subversive, probably sadistic, psychopathic author of nefarious conspiracy, or being named after a traditional British male undergarment*.
I do not want to be either of these extremes. It means facing the prospect that either I will likely kill several people in an attempt to overthrow the government, or that wearing a dirty white undergarment head-warmer and graphite passage-cleaners as fashion accessories while repeatedly shouting “wibble”, will be my future as a writer. The unspeakable stress and long-term emotional damage of being forced to face such a choice has been incalculable. I may even have grounds to sue. Yet, as I pondered my fate, realisation dawned that, however awful these futures may be, there was an alternative that was infinitely worse. I could be both.
Then again, may be I am neither. Debate (‘rages’ may be too strong) on various writing blogs about which is best. The more sensible commentators outline the strengths and weaknesses of each. I don’t really know which I am, or whether the way I have found I write is the ‘best’ way. I think most writers have their own natural method, which, if they can find it, will mean they will be more productive, creative, and enjoy the process of writing more. I have only been actively writing for a short space of time, but coming at it without formal training has meant I’ve just fallen into doing-what-I-do. I write in story arcs, telling the story of each character as a linear series of events. As the book progresses of course these threads will interweave, and it can get complex unravelling them. I will also have to superimpose the structure of a novel(s) with chapters on top of the narrative after all this is done. I usually have a plan for the next scene, and maybe the next few scenes; but when I don’t I can switch to another story arc and carry that forward. I have potential plans for the middle and end of the story, and I find being able to switch from one story arc to another feeds into the overarching plot of the book, growing it organically. If things don’t make sense I go back and insert extra scenes, or sometimes even extra characters to get past any ‘blocks’.
I am not proposing the way I do things as a method for anyone else, but so far it is working well for me. The discussion about what ‘type’ (sic) of writer you are is helpful in so far as it can provoke a little introspection, and experimentation in the way you tackle your own writing. If you are worrying what type of writer you are, don’t. The writer you really are will be measured by what you create, not the method you use to create it.
*N.B. The use of the term ‘underpants’ refers, in this case, to a deeply un-sexy traditional British male undergarment, a.k.a. a pair of ‘Y-fronts’. The name originates from the particular pattern of hem and stitching at the front of the garment forming an inverted letter ‘Y’. It is recommended they be utilised only to fulfil their inherent comic potential, and anything else is worn, in case of an accident and you have to go to hospital. The social convention in this instance is, if you have to wear underpants, then they must be clean.
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