Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Right Way to Write

We've all heard this phrase bandied about. I've even touched on it before at my old blog. But what exactly is the right way to write?

Well, many people subscribe to the art of plotting. As I understand it, plotting is when a writer plots everything out beforehand. Sometimes they do it in outline form. Others use plot boards (big boards with different colored sticky-notes for each character or plot arc or whatever major means they use). Some use Excel while others have specialized programs for the job. For plotters, this is the right way to write.

Many people consider themselves 'pantsers', which basically means writing by the seat of one's pants. They write down the words, the paragraphs, the scenes as it comes to them, and they make sure everything ties together in the edits. According to some, this is the more 'organic' way of writing because the story grows on the page. Of course, for the pantsing community, this is the right way to write.

Personally, I call what I do Planstering, or basically a little planning or plotting and a lot of pantsing. I start with a general idea - a path to travel down wherein I have a starting point and an ending point - but I have no clue as to how I'm going to get from point A to point B. Along the way, I might map out the next few steps, but I never have the whole journey laid out. This means, sometimes I get lost. And sometimes I write myself into a corner and have to either climb out a window or backtrack. This is the right way to write... for me.

There are tons of books on the market telling you what the right way to right is. I've heard so many titles and so many varying opinions from each that I'm surprised anyone can read any of them. I read one. Once. Over the years, my process has certainly changed, but only because both the act of writing and my books themselves don't seem to adhere to one process or the other.

I wrote my first book strictly as a pantser. During the second book, I read somewhere that the right way to write was to plot, so I plotted the rest of the second. Looking back, neither of those processes was entirely right for me. Now I do this morphing thing, and I write how the story wants to be written. (And no, the story itself really isn't dictating a damn thing. It's all in my head, and I'm the one doing it, even if it isn't always conscious.)

Anyway, if you've come looking for an answer to the eternal question "What is the right way to write?", all I can say is that it's something each writer has to discover for themselves. If I remember correctly, Allison Brennan has called herself a pantser (although I suspect she plansters) and Diana Peterfreund plots. Both are awesome writers - intelligent, well-respected and successful. I don't think either one would tell the other she's writing books wrong.

In the end, there is no right way to write - except for the process that works for you. And if, somewhere along the way, that process stops working, change processes until you slip into a new groove.

And that, my friends, is the only right way to write.

(PS. You'll have to pardon some of the phraseology tonight. I was writing a dialogue scene right before this post, and one of the characters has an accent. Now Nigel's talking in my head. Silly git.)


  1. I love that word, "Planstering." Very nice. You are so right, everyone needs to write the way that is best for them. I'm a bit of a pantser myself. I have a general "idea" of what I want to happen, but that doesn't mean it will be that way in the final draft. My stories tend to take on a life of their own as I write.

  2. I agree with you completely. So many people swear by a specific formula for writing but I've never understood those people.