All writers are classed within three groups (or styles), in terms of how they approach their writing: the outliner (or the ‘plotter’), the discovery writer (also known as the ‘panser’) or the hybrid.
A plotter is exactly how it sounds: their new writing project is completely mapped out before they begin. They are aware at all stages where the story is going, who plays what part and how the story arc will climax and conclude. There is a convenient safety in this method and it provides a solid path for a systematic writing process.
The polar opposite is the panser- they just put pen to paper and whatever happens, happens. This is exciting and very organic, as all of their events and plot points are not contrived but spontaneous. However this method can be quite a scary route as, without a guide, the author never quite knows where they are headed, which can result in unsatisfying plot holes, events and endings.
Most of us fall within the hybrid category, simply because we enjoy some rigidity which comes from the plotter outline, however give ourselves some flexibility in-between, ‘panser-ing’ our way through bits that don’t require so much of a planned framework.
However, I have found that whilst most writers are hybrid, they tend to sway more to one direction. So, either they outline their entire plot, and allow for a small percentage of spontaneity, or they have an idea for the ending and just discovery write until they get there.
This is a really interesting topic actually, as it’s not like a writer will set out to be one or the other (usually!)- it just happens and they cling to their style. We have our own methods of finding our style, and we all tend to dabble in the hybrid midpoint, then during our first few works, we pick a direction and gravitate to one pole and stay there. Further to this, each style of writer tends to almost get the shivers when thinking of writing it the other way once they get comfortable with their style.
I, myself, am a hybrid toward the panser side: in my current novel I am writing, I have this epic conclusion that I came up with over the course of a few weeks, and now I’m discovery writing my way there, and loving every second!
The reason I do this is because, for me, it feels like as I write, I am also a reader. I outlined one of my books originally, and ended up being bored during the actual writing as it felt like I had already read it so many times that I was fed up; I found that I relished the discovery of letting my characters, setting and plot run rampant.
I know this sounds strange, especially to an outline-hybrid writer, but this style is working extremely well for me. I come up with exciting concepts and set pieces that I believe foreshadow my intended later events and then just go for it. I came up with an entire religious ceremony in the middle of my book simply because the reader needed some extra information vital to the plot much later, and it was exciting and relevant in the context of the plot at that point, so in it went!
This is something that I know certain panser writers find a real set-back: that they need to review and edit so many times as, without an outline, the plot set up is left to instinct rather than a prepared guide. I personally love reviewing my writing, so this doesn’t bother me, but it can be fairly inefficient if you are looking to churn out a few books. But as they say, quality over quantity.
Back to my current novel, I have had alpha readers already read the initial drafts and really enjoy it, so this style does work, and I prefer it. However ‘each to their own’ and I find it fascinating that a diverse range of different writers all employ different techniques and styles to get that beautiful endpoint!
Which style or hybrid are you?