So I’d like to share some of my experience with different novel-writing styles. I’ve tried my hand at a couple and they’re always worth having a think about before getting stuck into a manuscript, especially if you’re looking to publish.
1. The no plan approach
Putting pen to paper and seeing what flows. I’ve tried this a few times before. In fact, I find it the best way to write short pieces. I know a lot of my writer friends prefer this approach, too. This was what I used for my first two long works, and I found that it is not my preferred approach for novels.
PROS: it’s free-form so you don’t need to worry about stopping and thinking so much. Sometimes words just flow, and sometimes they flow for a whole novel.
CONS: it can be hard to keep up. You may get halfway through and lose your place (which requires a lot of back-reading). It’s also very difficult to remember where certain events happened and makes it awkward to try and go back if you want to add anything in certain spots. It’s also awful for editing when you’re trying to clear up plot holes.
2. The very planned approach
This is using specific methods to sort out a solid plan before you begin writing. There are plenty of different ways to plan ahead. I used the Snowflake method for Caligation, though I think it might be a bit too methodical for some styles and genres.
PROS: by the time you finish a lot of these methods, not only do you have a complete plan (often including a Numbers or Excel filehseet of each scene) but also your synopsis and blurb. This makes it easy to present your work to publishers and agents, and very easy to add/remove scenes or work out plot holes.
CONS: it can be a slog to write. Esepcially if you like to write scenes out of order. I also found that I would reach a bit in the excel file that I didn’t really want to write as much as another scene and have to force myself to get past it. If you’re more creative than organised, it can be a bit stifling.
3. The ‘Oops I started something and it’s going to be long so I’d better keep track of what I’m doing’ approach (ie: my new favourite)
I wasn’t going to work on any other big projects until Caligation was published. Except that this scene in my head wouldn’t leave me alone until I wrote it down. Unfortunately (?) it was a good start to a very long young adult fantasy story and I couldn’t help but keep writing. After a few thousand words I realised I should probably at least keep track of each scene I wrote so I had a separate document for the flow, as well as with a plan for future scenes.
PROS: this allows you to write without a plan, but keep a scene-by-scene record of what has and will happen in your story. By greying out scenes you’ve done, in your list, you can easily write them out of order without ruining the strict plan of the Snowflake method and others. It’s a good mix of the previous methods.
CONS: it can be a bit all over the place. While you are keeping a record of where you are and what comes next, it can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you end up with scenes out of order. It works for me, but it may be a bit awkward for others.
So that’s three main types that I’ve had personal experience with. I’d love to hear about how you guys write and if there’s any other big methods out there that I haven’t discussed or any other thoughts and queries.
tl;dr: There are too many ways to write. I’ve tried three.