I love writing advice. I watch videos, listen to podcasts, and read all the books and articles I can. I love to see how other people work and am fascinated by the creative process. I’m also always trying to improve my own writing process.
I’m starting to get frustrated with the advice though. Sometimes I’m even angry at what I hear. The advice that makes me grit my teeth isn’t necessarily wrong. In fact, that’s part of the problem, because it’s easy to get side-tracked by someone else’s truth. If their truth isn’t my truth, it’s not going to work for me, no matter how right it is.
The predominance of writing advice focuses on outlining, plotting and story structure. These techniques are quantifiable and definable. Using them makes the writing itself more efficient and editing easier. (Who wouldn’t want that?) They work for many writers out there.
For me, they don’t. Following this advice makes me feel stupid and inadequate. And believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve outlined. I’ve plotted. I’ve learned about story structure. I’ve even trained to become a book coach in the hopes it will improve my writing. And it has. All of these things have been devoured and digested. But I still can’t outline, and I still can’t plot, and story structure is still just a bunch of cool-sounding ideas that I can’t make a book out of. (Except for the Heroine’s Journey, but that’s another story, which you can read here.) So when someone screams into their microphone that writing without plotting is inefficient and a waste of time, I want to scream back I KNOW!! BUT THAT’S ALL MY BRAIN CAN DO!!!
Except there’s a voice in the wilderness of YouTube who’s got my back. Her name is Ellen Brock, and her latest series is a system that categorizes writers into four different types with different processes—all of them valid. It’s brilliant. You should go watch it right now.
In order to classify writers, she’s created two continuums: methodological to intuitive, and plotter to pantser. (Let me just say right here that I hate the term pantser—or flying by the seat of your pants. I prefer to think of it as discovery writing. But I’ll stick with pantser for clarity :o) She says that most people fall somewhere between the extremes of each of these continuums. By pairing these characteristics, Brock gets four writer types: methodological pantser, methodological plotter, intuitive plotter, and intuitive pantser. I won’t go into detail about each of these types, as she explains them much better than I can in her videos.
This week she released the last of the series, How To Write Your Novel As An Intuitive Pantser. It made me feel seen. Brock talks about writers who are intuitive pantsers the same way she talks about methodological plotters—no judgment. She presents her writer types as naturally occurring phenomena that simply exist. Who you are does not determine whether or not you can write, only how you might best go about it. It is so refreshing to see someone approach writing advice this way: offering suggestions for what might be helpful, without prescribing a specific method.
All this boils down to trusting your process, which is a lot harder than it sounds. And much more complex. When you are learning craft, you have to listen to others and be open to change. But not everything you hear will apply to your specific process and the way that your mind works. Brock’s videos help us understand which aspects of our writing process are native to our own minds, giving us a foundation from which to evaluate writing advice.
And all I want to say, is Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!