This post is part of a 10 part series in the lead up to a writing conference being hosted by Fiona McIntosh (October 2019). Please follow along with my weekly posts about how I’m preparing my manuscript and myself ‘mentally’ for this wonderful opportunity. 

As I continue on the countdown to my writer’s national conference, I’ve stopped to think about my writing style. The future and viability of being a writer is often on my mind, so I’ve been looking at some writers I admire to see how many books they’ve published and how often they release a new novel.

Some writers have great discipline and can knock out a book in 12 weeks, while I’ve heard of others who spend a great deal longer working on each sentence to ensure it tells the exact story they want. I don’t think either method is wrong or better, it’s obviously what works best for them. 

I’m hoping my style and techniques keep developing as I write — I know that with my first manuscript under my belt I have learnt a lot and I’m implementing some techniques earlier with my second book. All of this consideration does, however, bring me to thinking about the age old debate of plotting versus pantsing…

The methods you choose

A plotter meticiously knows their story arc, their characters’ personalities and the journey they will take with each turning page — think documented plots, sketched arcs, resumes for characters, that kind of thing. A pantser cracks their knuckles at the keyboard, flicks open a blank page and flies (‘by the seat of their pants’), letting the story take them on the journey rather than the other way around.

Now onto my second story, I’ve come to realise I sit somewhere in the middle — balancing on the tightwire, with my hands out for stability, a little bit of plotting on the left and a bit of pansting on the right, to get my story moving from one platform to the other.

I’ve talked about my favourite writing books before, but I’ve pulled out Save The Cat! Writes A Novel again and have got a loose structure for my current work. But it’s literally a sentence for each moment that shapes the story. I’ve already started writing the manuscript and despite the story skeleton I sketched out — I still didn’t know much about my characters, the places they were about to visit, the buildings they would work in, or how their relationships would/will twist and fold. To be honest, I love this pantsing part of writing! I think deep down I want the freedom to create as I type, but I have the safety net of a loose plot.

I’ll end on this passage from Jessica Brody, the author of Save The Cat! Writes A Novel. To her plotting, pantsing or whatever you do actually comes down to one element that makes a great story:

“The key is all in the pacing. A well-paced novel with visual elements, compelling character growth, and an airtight structure can step into the ring with any blockbuster film — and win.”

J x

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