It didn’t take me long to figure out that when it came to writing I was definitely more of a panster than a planner. What does that mean exactly? I don’t plan out my novels in advance. There are costs to writing a story that way, such as having a lot of rewriting to do. However, in the past, even when I’ve tried to plot in advance, I’ve usually had to end up ditching my planned sequence anyway as my novel took on a life of it’s own. This doesn’t mean, though, that I don’t do any preparation in advance. So what is my writing process? (You’re probably wondering about that, since that is the blog title). Well, let me tell you!
My stories always start with the characters. Usually they pop into my head quite well formed and then it’s time to take the characters and dig just a little bit deeper. Often I’ll do this by opening a blank word document, title it the name of the character, and just slap out as many details as I can, including their birthday, their family, their goals.
Once I’ve done this with all the main characters, I’ll write a very brief outline of the plot. This often means playing around with a query letter. Even though the final query will be months (or years) away, I do find writing a rough draft of a query allows me to really focus on the main plot of the novel.
I find the biggest thing I’ve learnt over the years—something I was too stubborn to acknowledge in the beginning—is how crucial editing is. It doesn’t matter if you plan or not, you need to edit. It’s natural after putting in hours and hours of work to want to write ‘the end’ and have a perfect novel. But that just doesn’t happen. I can’t remember who said this, but for me it’s definitely true: writing is in the rewriting. Editing isn’t just changing a word around and cutting a sentence, it’s tearing your novel and characters apart to make sure their motives make sense, the plot lines have arcs and the novel is cohesive and enjoyable to read. As a panster, this is the most important part of my writing process. Even though I often dread the rewrite, I always find I’m so much prouder of my work afterwards.