There are so many ways to write a book. Every author has their own method, their own process. But there are a few basic types of writers that most can agree on, though some have different names for them.
For all the readers out there who are curious and for all the writers just looking to figure out where you fall (maybe you’re looking for a group of like-minded writers to seek out tips on streamlining the process you prefer, but need a name for your group), I’ll be going over three types of writers.
There’s the pantser, the plantser, and the plotter.
Basically, it’s a range of planning.
Plotters do ALL the planning.
They’ll take personality tests as their characters, building in depth profiles for every single one. They might spend months or even years building their world, ironing out every detail of that realm’s history, weather patterns, physics, and magic before ever putting down a single word of prose.
And they need that.
A lot of plotters feel lost or overwhelmed without those things. They need to have that organization, that detail, laid out before they start writing to ensure that when they start to write, they never mess anything up or forget anything.
Every twist and turn, every angle, every character development is planned and accounted for before they start writing.
Then, there’s the other end of the spectrum.
Pantsers (aka discovery writers, aka flashlight writers) jump right in. No planning. No outlines.
All that extra stuff, the detailed character profiles, the story bibles… feels like a waste of time to pantsers. It cages them in, restraining the characters and the story. It impinges on their creative freedom, a thing they value above all else.
They’d rather let the story unfold as they go, exploring the world and learning about the characters as the plot develops. That might mean going back and adjusting things every now and then to accommodate new developments, but that’s something they’re willing to do.
For these writers, the book is every bit as much of a mystery to them when writing as it is to readers. And they love it.
Characters often feel like separate entities and sometimes “refuse” to talk to them, a thing that plotters often put down to inadequate planning, but plotters chalk up to fully developed characters.
And then, there are the people in the middle.
Plantsers do some level of planning, but also enjoy the exploration and mystery.
They might put together a small outline, maybe a page or so, but deviate from it if necessary. And they probably won’t lose sleep over doing so.
They like to have an idea of how things will go and where the character arcs will lead them, but are open to change.
Personally, I tend to fall on the pantser end of the spectrum. If I know too much about a story when I start writing, I lose interest. Because there’s no freedom left in it.
There’s one story that I started writing several years ago, and one day, the ending just appeared in my mind, and I wrote it out, word for word, in complete detail.
And in my head, that story was done. I knew the ending. I knew how all the characters developed.
But the middle of the book wasn’t written.
And it still isn’t.
I’ve written several others instead.
Eventually, I’ll go back and write the middle of that one, but there are all these other ideas that haven’t reached a conclusion in my mind. Those just pull me in more than the one that’s “finished.”
Now, I do take notes as I go, putting character descriptions into a separate document as I go so I don’t give a side character blonde hair at the start of the book and black hair at the end.
But that’s about it.
What should all my fellow writers take away from this?
The resolution to write how you need to write. Everyone has their own process. Writing a book is an intensely personal experience. What works like a charm for one person might stop another in their tracks.
Write your book however you need to.
Keep reading. Keep writing.