In his book, The Snowflake Method, author/ fiction writing coach, Randy Ingermanson, mentions two different categories of writers: the outliner and the organic writer.
The outliner, well, outlines his book and does so in gory detail, a la Robert Ludlum, whose novel outlines could reach some 150 pages in length. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the ethereal-minded organic writers, who pen words only when inspiration strikes. Their heads float amongst the clouds while they wait for genius to descend upon them.
Not surprisingly, the portraits Ingermanson paints of both types of writer are unflattering. Outlining comes off as stodgy and boring, while organic writing is so inefficient, it often leads to a lack of productivity- stalled manuscripts and anxiety over putting words down on the page.
Of course, few novelists really compose their fictions in either fashion. We’re, most of us, somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.
I, myself, fall closer to the organic writer end of spectrum. My process is purely organic at first, but at some point, when a story emerges, I do some loose planning, like creating a scene list.
And yet, despite this hybrid approach, I’m a very slow writer. Any organic gardener will tell you composting takes time- about 6 to 9 months, and so does writing organically. Creating a book, at least for me, often takes a year. Sometimes a year and a half. And then there are the novels that fizzle out halfway through.
The one lesson I have learned about organic writing is not to start with premises. My successes have only come when I just let ideas flow. Where I started may end up at the beginning of the novel, but it might also be the middle or the end. I call this x-treme pantsing (see here).
Creating a New Process
Recently, however, I’ve been looking for a new writing process; one that moves me closer to the other end of the writing spectrum. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, that while my current process is fun, it’s inefficient. What I want to create is a process that merges early stage outlining with organic writing.
To do so, I will consult three how-to-write-fiction texts for inspiration: the above mentioned, The Snowflake Method, Jessica Brody’s Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, and Robert J. Ray’s The Weekend Novelist. I chose the latter mostly because I’ve owned it for years.
I will take their collective advice and try weaving them into something that works for me.
Furthermore, I’ve also decided to be more ambitious this year. I’m going to attempt writing multiple novels at once. This will guarantee at least one book will get finished. (Or no books get finished. We’ll see.)
Wish me luck! And if you have any suggestions for other, possibly better, how-to-write-fiction books I can consult, suggest them in the comments below.
Thank you for reading. This is post one in a series on becoming a plotter. Come back to see if this dyed in the wool x-treme pantser can change their spots.