Recently, a question was posed on a message board asking the proper way to write a novel. And, being the wise woman (or would that be wise guy?) that I am, I jumped in and answered:
The proper way to write a novel is the way it works best for you.
Oh, the wisdom!
But it's true. There are as many ways to write a novel as there are wannabe novelists. OK, maybe not quite as many. But still, when you consider all the different ways there are to plot a novel or not plot a novel, it adds up to lots.
Here are a few ways. See if one of them is you:
Die Hard Plotter. This is the writer who spends months - yes, MONTHS - researching, plotting, charting, mapping, brainstorming, outlining, and planning, before they even write ONE WORD in their novel. For me, the key word here is DIE. Because that's what I'll do before I end up a DHP. But hey, it works for some!
The Flaky Plotter - The snowflake method was created by author and physicist, Randy Ingermanson. It is a unique way of designing your novel using the "shape" of a snowflake. Many authors I know use (and highly recommend) this method, but I have never personally tried it. I keep meaning to, but anything that seems too much like plotting turns me off. However, this idea intrigues me and I intend to check it out.
Noteworthy Plotter - This type of plotter invests in index card stock. She has millions of index cards on which she writes each scene. Then, using a story board (or the wall), she arranges her index cards in different sequences to create a complete story. The advantage is that if a scene doesn't work in one place, you can move it to another. You can also "see" your story at a glance, spot any plot holes, and fix them, accordingly. My thoughts? Too much clutter.
The Chapter Master - Some writers choose to sit down, number a few sheets of paper with the number of chapters they intend for their book, and write a paragraph or so of what they want to accomplish in each chapter. This is a good way to loosely plan your novel so you know the main points and general direction you're taking but still have a lot of details you can make-up as you go along.
The Roman Plotter - For some reason, looking at a page of Roman numerals and letters and subletters, gives me flashbacks of history class. Shudder. But some authors find this type of structured outline to be the perfect way to organize their thoughts and plan the course of their novel. I say too much structure gives Lynda a headache. Just as history was not my best subject (OK, it was my WORST subject), Roman plotting is not for me.
The Invisible Plotter - Ah ... we finally get to me. If you visited me in my office, you would find no evidence of plotting. That's because all of my plotting is done in my mind. Well, most of it, anyway. I tend to mull things over, create plotlines and characters, and file them away in my mind's pendeflex. When I finish a scene or chapter, I take some time to just think and brainstorm about what will happen next. Once I get a general idea, my fingers start flying over the keyboard again. Works for me.
The Pantser - Last, but not least, we have the Pantser. The fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer that could care less about plotting in any form. Plotting cramps their creativity. And who likes cramps? Pantsers simply write. And write. And write. And see where the story takes them. Of course, Pantsers are the ones who usually have to go back and fix lots of stuff later. They probably spend much more time in the editing than the writing stage because they didn't stop long enough to think things through the first time. But they don't mind. In fact, it's the only way they can write.
So what type are you? Do you extensively plot your novels or do you take the other extreme and wing it?
What it comes down to is that the way you write your novel isn't as important as just getting it written.