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  • Writer's pictureS. E. Shinault

Fun Facts About My Writing Process



Hello there! I hope you're having a good week. Today, I wanted to share some fun facts about my writing process. So let's get right to it.




Plotter vs. Pantser

Most writers, and even some readers, probably have heard the terms plotter and pantser. A plotter is a person who likes to plan their writing out ahead of time. Often, they outline and have their own systems for organizing their story, from preferred digital tools to color-coded index cards on a wall. A few famous plotters are J. K. Rowling, E. L. Stein, and John Grisham.


On the opposite end of the spectrum is the pantser, who, as the name suggests, is a person who "flies by the seat of their pants." These writers prefer to feel their writing, resulting in them discovering much of their work as they go along. Some examples of famous pantsers are Ernest Hemingway, George R. R. Martin, Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, and Neil Gaiman.


For a long time, I considered myself a pantser. I would sit down in front of a blank document and simply type the words as they came, seeing where the characters would lead me. This worked well for about the first half of the book, but as you can imagine, things can start to fork off into treacherous little trails, all seeming to lead to dead end signs. This can often leave me sifting through mounds of frustration as I try to get back on track. But here's the thing. I've tried taking the plotter's path a couple of times before, and it didn't really pan out for me. I would get just as stuck working on an outline as I would the actual story, so in the end, the outline felt like a waste of my time and energy.


Then I realized, I'm actually a plantser—that sweet spot between a plotter and pantser. A plantser prefers to do a little planning beforehand, but not too much, and then dives into the story with those tidbits of information they've already prepped. From there, the story evolves as the chapters accumulate. This is my usual method. Now, it isn't necessarily foolproof. I still have problems when I get about three quarters of the way through a novel, but writing is a complicated process. About 90% of it is just working out the kinks. Still, the fun thing about being in this category is that sometimes the story will throw unexpected, but welcome, surprises at you mid-keystroke. New character? Plot twist? The possibilities are limitless, and sometimes you just gotta run with it.


What works best for you? Are you a plotter, pantser, or plantser?




Leaving Comments

Another fact about my process is my tendency to leave comments for myself when I get stuck. During those times when I'm particularly frustrated that words aren't flowing or the plot holes are deepening, then I'll type something unrelated to the story. Stream of consciousness writing, if you will. It usually consists of me harping on myself for my shortcomings as a writer. To be frank, this is simply a way of blowing off steam until I can get the gears oiled up and turning again. Some examples of these comments to myself are shown below:


  • Omit when I can actually write something that makes sense here...

  • “Why are you speaking so strangely? It must be the author at work again? She has really gone off the deep end this time…”

  • “How could the author possibly write so poorly as to make me and you and all the other characters in this hazy narrative suck so much?”

  • This is crappy. What is wrong with me? I can’t focus. I can’t concentrate. At least this is adding to my word count. Will have to edit edit all of this out later. Oh, look. I accidentally wrote edit twice.

Okay... so maybe I can be a tad self-deprecating when it comes to my own writing. We're always our own worst critics, right? But, there's a method to my madness (sometimes). These comments—sprinkled through various manuscripts like glitter that won't wash off—do serve a purpose. Whether that's adding to my word count (looking at you, NaNoWriMo) or marking a place in the story that I need to go back to so I can make adjustments. And, to be honest, sometimes ranting to myself and getting those negative thoughts out of my system helps me to let go of them and move on.


I'm learning to allow myself some grace in the process. That's always important.



A Motley Selection of Stickies

You may not have known this, but I'm an eight-to-fiver by day and fiction author by night. But just because I sit in an office working to bring in a paycheck doesn't mean the ideas stop flowing—like ever.


Enter the Sticky Note.


Over the years, I've developed an unhealthy relationship with sticky notes. At any given time, I usually have a cluster of them folded up in my pocket, stuffed in a bag, or strewn across my desk, both at home and at work.


Sticky notes. Sticky notes everywhere!


They're one of the most convenient ways for me to jot down a quick note for a story, whether it be a character name, a line of dialogue, or an idea for a plot. This works well for me, because it ensures I've written down the idea and it won't get lost forever in the cobwebs of my brain. However, if you're like me and have literal stashes of sticky notes lying around the house in the most unsuspecting of places, well...maybe it's time for an intervention. But I still don't see the stickies leaving my life anytime soon.






Music

Many writers are divided on this topic. Some demand absolute silence while they work. While I can certainly work well in a quiet, distraction free environment, I find that listening to music while I write helps me stay just as focused. I prefer instrumental music, as anything with lyrics can disturb the flow of my own words. But more often than not, if I'm writing, I have some sort of playlist going in the background.


I may be a tad obsessed with curating the perfect playlist for every story I write. I listen to these to get motivated, and in my case, they genuinely help to inspire me. For general, everyday writing, though, I have a playlist with well over 3,000 instrumental songs (yes; you read that right), ranging from soft and sad, to epic, to uplifting, and sometimes even scary for when I'm writing something with a little creep factor. And the playlist continues to grow. Every. Single. Week.



Okay... maybe I should be concerned.




*Clears Throat*



What systems do you have in place for your writing process? I love hearing about other writers and their quirky methods for getting words on the page, so comment below!




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