As it turns out, just as no two authors write the same books, nor do any of us work the same. Put four authors in a condo for a weekend and you will observe four very different methods of composing a novel. Let’s take a look.
There are generally two kinds of writers: Plotter and Pantsers. Neither is better than the other, it is just how we approach the story. A plotter likes to have the story points laid out beforehand, a roadmap one might say of what will happen from A to Z. Some writers have detailed a synopsis of every point, character sketches, story arcs and a variety of information all written down before they even compose a single sentence. Others just notes that guide them from one chapter to the next. A pantser has a general idea for a story and that’s it. For them it is the thrill of seeing where the story takes them.
I was the odd ball of our foursome, being in the middle of the spectrum of plotters. As a plotter, I like my work organized, a good idea of where the book is going to go and I always brainstorm each section, chapter and scene before I sit down to write. My three fellow retreaters, Jane Porter, Liza Palmer and Caitlin Crews are more on the pantser side of the fence. Jane does do a bit more plotting than the other two, but the three of them definitely like to write without a safety net. I watched them in breathless awe.
Really? You can do that?
Not this author. No way.
And I thought I was being really out there writing my scenes out of sequence.
What I found fascinating about Liza, was how she sits down, laptop in front of her and a blank journal beside her and she just starts writing. The pages fill up and the journal becomes her record of her journey. Like a diary of an unplanned trip. She writes down ideas, tips, revisions even as she hurries forward with her story. We debated desserts as she considered what to have her chef heroine make for a man’s last meal, and with a pie decided, she continued on. All the charm and grace of a road trip down Route 66. So very cool.
Megan tends to hole up, a few notes and again, just writes. She looks online for visual inspiration–Tumblr and other sites, and after a while, the pages start to come forth. I liked her sparse style, which contrasts with her rich and in depth stories.
Finally comes Jane, who is the most visual of writers–she has pictures of all her characters, in all their moods. Sorting through her collection of magazine clippings, downloaded photos, she can show you her hero happy, defiant, angry, serious, all his stormy, Alpha moods right before her, contrasted with the photos of her heroine and secondary characters. And then with her cast assembled, they begin to speak to her and she writes. It is a very cinematic approach to writing.
We all use music to write with. Finding the right songs, soundtrack and moods using songs that we play over and over as we write. My current sound track is a mix of 70s hits that just seem to capture the light hearted mood of the book I am writing. We shared songs and musicians we’d discovered, each of us taking notes of the others tracks.
Really, there is no right or wrong way to work. It is all about what speaks to you. And one other thing I discovered–some of us mutter as we write. And I’m not pointing any fingers. ‘Cause some of us mutter all the rest of the time.