Back in August, spurred on by my procrastinator tendencies, I posted the writing meme 10 Ways You Know A Story Was Written By Me. August was ages ago. It’s time for a new one.
I nabbed this meme from Writing Wrongs, and the 12 questions focus on identifying your writing style.
1. Are you a “pantser” or a “plotter?”
For a new project, the first few chapters are very much ‘pantser’ style of writing, but then I might sit back and draw up roadmaps and mind maps and stick index cards all over the walls. I keep my plotting quite flexible, though, and often end up deviating from my original plans. But I think overall I’m more of a plotter than a pantser.
2. Detailed character sketches or “their character will be revealed to me as a I write”?
Very much the latter! I may write out a short description, so that I know each character’s height and keep things consistent, but other than that I have in my mind a rough idea of their personality and motives and that’s it. Whilst writing, I make up details as I need them; I can’t be bothered to sit down and write out their history.
I know what my characters are like now, but not always why they are the way they are. After all, when you first meet someone, you learn about their personality and habits first, and only much later do you learn what has shaped them into who they are.
I actually love discovering character depth as I write. For example, I have a surly male character, who I only recently realized is so surly because of a rather difficult childhood. Things seem to click together eventually.
3. Do you know your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts before you start writing or is that something else you discover only after you start writing?
When I start writing the first few snatches of scenes and ideas, I don’t always know what all the characters want; I often only know the antagonist’s motives, as that’s what prompts the story in the first place.
But when I get my ideas together and begin writing properly, I wouldn’t be able to write if I didn’t know the characters’ motivations! Sometimes I’m surprised by secondary motivations and goals, but I need to have a firm grasp on what they’re aiming for before writing. Otherwise the plot seems to just wander around aimlessly until I figure it out.
4. Books on plotting – useful or harmful?
It depends on the book and also how you read them. I particularly enjoyed How Not To Write A Novel, which tells you what to avoid rather than prescribing supposed fail-safe methods. It seems far easier for writing experts to agree on what doesn’t work than on what does.
These kinds of how-to books can be helpful, but it is often difficult to translate the problems they mention to your own work. Therefore I think direct critique on your writing is more helpful than reading a book.
5. Are you a procrastinator or does the itch to write keep at you until you sit down and work?
A bit of both! I tend to get the itch to write when I (for work or other reasons) can’t write, and then procrastinate when I have the chance to write!
But sometimes, especially for new projects, I wake up in the middle of the night and need to scribble things down because otherwise they won’t stop bothering me.
6. Do you write in short bursts of creative energy, or can you sit down and write for hours at a time?
Short bursts, all the way. I can sit down and do hours of revision and editing, but actually producing new stuff takes more time. I’m even writing this blog post in fits and spurts!
Even if I only have a five to ten minute break between writing spurts, I seem to need that time to refresh my brain. I think that’s the plotter in me showing through: I need that time to think of what needs to happen next.
7. Are you a morning or afternoon writer?
Afternoon to late evening. Often until very late in the evening, as my fellow twitter followers already know. I’m a night owl. Mornings aren’t meant to be seen.
8. Do you write with music/the noise of children/in a cafe or other public setting, or do you need complete silence to concentrate?
It depends on what I’m writing. I can scribble down ideas and outlines in public settings, and sometimes find that being outside surrounded by people helps inspire me. But when I’m sitting down to write seriously, I need complete silence and solitude, if only so I can talk aloud to myself whilst writing without anyone looking at me oddly! And, yes, I’m even saying this sentence aloud as I’m writing it!
9. Computer or longhand? (or typewriter?)
Again, it depends. Mostly computer, as I can write a heck of a lot faster with it and shift things around easily. Computers are great when it comes to revision, too: I can be harsher on the computer, because it feels less final when you delete something (as I copy paste it to a ‘scraps’ document).
But I always carry around a notebook with me when I’m out to scribble things longhand, and sometimes if I have a really bad bout of writer’s block, the motion of pen on paper helps.
10. Do you know the ending before you type Chapter One?
Yes. It may not be set in stone, but I know roughly where the main character will end up. It gives me something to aim for.
11. Does what’s selling in the market influence how and what you write?
No. I write stories I want to read. People always say ‘write for the market’ but…. I can’t help what ideas come to mind. They nag me until I write them, with no consideration of markets. I know this is probably silly, as I would like to be published via traditional routes, but, I can’t help what I want to write.
12. Editing – love it or hate it?
Editing other people’s work can be quite fun. Editing my own… Well, it depends. Sometimes it can be a very creative process, drawing new connections between things, tidying everything up. Other times I find it disheartening, and it makes me hate my writing all the more.
This was interesting. I had always considered myself a pantser, but thinking about it carefully I am much more of a plotter. Even if I don’t write down billions of outlines, I’m always planning ahead in my mind.
What about you?