When many folks talk about writing, they often talk about two kinds of writers—plotters and pansters. Now, plotters are just what the name implies. These are the folks who plot out their books, which can include everything from doing a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of the book to detailed character outlines to creating storyboards of the various scenes/chapters.
And then there are pansters, or people who don’t do a lot of plotting. I am one of those folks.
Usually, when I’m thinking about an idea for a book, I’ll think about my heroine first—her personality, her strengths and weaknesses, her magic and how she can use it to defeat the bad guys. Then, I’ll think about the three big turning points of the story:
1) The first chapter that opens the book. I often think of these like those opening teasers in a James Bond movie—almost like a small, self-contained story with some action to grab people’s interest but that also ties in to the overall plot.
3) And finally, the big battle with the villain at the end of the story.
And that’s about as much as I ever plot out a book. Once I have my heroine and all these turning points in mind, I sit down, start writing, and see where the story and characters take me.
Sometimes, I have a good grasp of the overall plot and many of the specific scenes, and the story come very easily to me. Other times, I’ll get halfway through writing a book and realize that I should have zigged when I zagged. When that happens, I spend a lot of time rewriting in my second draft.
Most of the time, it falls somewhere in the middle. I know some of the scenes, but as I’m writing, the characters or story take me in an unexpected direction. Sometimes, that’s a good thing, and sometimes, it’s not.
Now, you may be asking why I don’t plot out a book. Surely, that would be easier and save me some time, right? Maybe. But I find that if I plot out the book beforehand, then I feel like I’ve sort of written the book already, and I’m just not as engaged with the characters and story as I am if I don’t plot everything out.
But this is just the method that works for me. One of the trickiest things about being a writer is finding the method that works for you—because no one else can do that for you. Just like no one else can write your book but you.
So whether you are a plotter or a panster or fall somewhere in between, I wish you good luck in all your writing endeavors. Happy writing and reading!
What about you guys? Are you plotters or pansters? How much planning do you do before you start writing a book?
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Jennifer Estep is a New York Times bestselling author, prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea. Jennifer writes the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series for Pocket Books. She is also the author of the Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series for Kensington and the Bigtime paranormal romance series.
Poison Promise, the 11th book in the Elemental Assassin series, will be published on July 22. Black Widow, the 12th book, will be released on Nov. 25.
For more on Jennifer and her books, visit her website at www.jenniferestep.com. You can also follow Jennifer on Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter – @Jennifer_Estep.