There are basically two types of writers, plotters and “pant-sters.” Some are a hybrid of both.
Plotters are those super organized people who must map out their entire book before sitting down to write it. They use various methods to achieve this goal. I have a friend who devotes an entire wall of her office to plotting. She uses sticky notes to jot down characters, dialogue, plot points, description, chapter beginnings and endings. Through these notes, she analyzes character and plot arcs, adding notes on description along the way. It’s a very detailed process. She follows this wall to produce her manuscript. Other writer friends use storyboards as if they are mounting an advertising campaign for a Fortune 500 company. Others use a stack of index cards. Others use sophisticated computer programs. What they have in common is the fact that they know the direction of their novel from beginning to end before putting fingers to the keyboard.
“Pant-sters” are literally “seat-of-the-pants” writers. They sit down and write. They have an idea in their head and proceed to write the “what if,” from beginning to completion. They don’t rely on sticky notes or outlines to achieve their goal. The voices in their head lead them from beginning to end with passion. They usually don’t know where the novel is heading but, thanks to experience and the habit of creating manuscripts, follow a plot and character arc almost subliminally.
I’m a hybrid writer. I have the beginning and the end but need to fill in the middle. As I work on a manuscript, I tend to live the story in my head. As I go about my daily life, I ponder the next sequence of events of plot. I’ve been known to plot out chapters while relaxing in the bathtub, while walking my dogs or driving in the car. As I’m typing a manuscript, often the characters “talk” to me and often change the course of the story. In one of my manuscripts the heroine decided to have another baby, something I hadn’t planned on in the plot arc. I jot down snippets of conversation to incorporate. Sometimes, I write chapters out of sequence because they just come to me. In one manuscript, I accumulated chapters only to lay them out, and link them together with new ideas. I consider it a planned, seat-of-the-pants approach.
The method a writer uses to create a manuscript really doesn’t matter. After all, it’s the end result that counts. A satisfying read with a happily ever is every writers goal.