Friday, 5 December 2014

Chippers and builders, planners and pantsers

I know that there are as many ways to write a book as there are authors - it stands to reason that everyone goes about it in a different way, but I've also heard that largely speaking (enormous generalisation here) there are two main techniques to writing: the planner, and the fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants-er. I've heard this second category of writer referred to as a 'pantser'.

I am definitely not a pantser.

I don't know why I thought I might be, to be honest, since in every other area of my life I am a careful planner who requires advance warning of everything, who struggles to adapt to change and who loves routine and familiarity. I don't do surprises very well, and so clearly I am unlikely to be one of the writers who sits down one day with a vague idea of how to start a novel, and just starts writing, with no idea where the story might take them.

Goes with the flow, so to speak.

Nope. I have my 'protractor' idea and I am breaking my detailed synopsis down into chapters and scenes and attempting to make myself a plan for writing the scenes that I haven't got yet.

Another interesting way of describing the work of an author is to decide how you create your work in terms of sculpting a masterpiece: whether you start with nothing and slowly add pieces until your sculpture is complete, (a builder) or whether you start with a huge shapeless lump of stone and slowly chip away at it until the shape within is revealed, (a chipper).

Michaelangelo did this with the famous statue, 'David'. David was buried inside a block of marble until a master-craftsman found him in there and released him with a chisel, leaving all the unnecessary stone-chips on the floor around him.

I always thought I'd be a lump of stone-type writer. I am notoriously wordy and find that my writing needs a lot of editing down to get rid of all the bits that I don't need. When I was writing my dissertation at university I found myself with nearly double the word count and had to go through it again pruning off the excess. My dissertation slowly got smaller and smaller.

So, this is how I imagine myself as a writer.

However, sitting here writing this (and surfing pictures of statues and sculptures) to put off actually doing any proper writing on the project in hand, I find myself wondering whether it's possible to be a planner and a chipper at the same time?

Maybe with my detailed plan, my scene-by-scene guide, I am a builder after all? Or maybe a builder who will later turn into a chipper because she's created something vast and unwieldy?

Or maybe it doesn't matter even remotely and I should get on and put some words down and see what happens?

That sounds a little bit pantsy to me.

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