Fiction writers are sometimes divided into “plotters” and “pantsers” depending on how much advance thought they put into the development of their novels.
The “plotters” like to work everything out in advance. They may develop elaborate outlines, timelines, character portraits, diagrams of pivot points in their story, and know, even before they strike the first key, exactly what the story is and how it will develop.
“Pantsers” on the other hand, get their name from “flying by the seat of their pants” and I think that sums it up nicely. These writers might start with an idea, a scrap of conversation, a setting, or some dramatic situation, then sit down and start writing to see where the story goes, what characters show up, and how the whole thing will work out.
What about self-publishers? They can also be divided in terms of how they approach the publication of their books. Consider:
You can always tells when you’re talking to an author who is a planner, because as soon as they get going they have specific dates for all their book planning events. For instance, they may be working towards finishing their first draft by the end of the month, because they have already scheduled an editor to work on the book over the following two weeks.
This author has booked the blogs on which she’ll be appearing during her book launch, perhaps several months away. She’s located other vendors for the services she’ll need, set up a publishing company, has all her “ducks in a row.”
Although all this preparation is impressive, planners are sometimes driven by anxiety. They are keenly aware of all the things that can go wrong, and want to avoid having unplanned events disrupt their timeline.
The Free Spirits
For a variety of reasons, a lot of authors approach publishing with a less structured approach than the planners do. Free spirits are more concerned with the task in front of them, not so much with events that may be a long way off.
These authors may be so absorbed by finishing their manuscript that they don’t engage an editor in advance. While working with an editor, they may pay no attention to the next tasks in the publishing process, content to wait until the moment when they will be needed.
Although it sounds like a slower process, these authors may be more open to serendipitous meetings and spur of the moment inspiration. Although they don’t have the advantage of the advance planning of the Planners, they may have more fun in the process.
The Varieties of the Book Planning Experience
Books are, for those of us who create them, somewhat paradoxical.
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